19th January – Brian Blessed leads celebration of Bristol Old Vic’s redevelopment milestone.
This traditionally marks the moment in a major building project where the highest point of construction has been reached and is a time to celebrate the successes so far.
Brian Blessed studied at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before beginning his career in 1957, treading the boards in panto as ‘First Robber’ to Peter O’Toole’s Dame in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Brian returns today, after a break of 60 years, to lay the final piece of cement, complete with placing a sprig of yew for good luck, and accept a silver ceremonial trowel from building contractors Gilbert Ash.
Bristol Old Vic’s redevelopment is due to be completed in September this year. A two-year reconstruction project that has literally knocked down the walls that had separated the theatre from its city for 250 years. For the first time, the theatre can be seen from the street, with fully accessible, bright public spaces, a new bar and kitchen (created in partnership with Bristol company Fosters Events), a new Studio theatre and the return of Coopers’ Hall to its original Georgian splendour as a function space, available for conferences and celebrations. The 250 year history of this unique theatre will also be opened up to the public with interactive experiences, exhibitions and a digitised archive available on site to bring the theatre’s heritage story to life as never before.
Bristol Old Vic’s aim is to provide opportunities for every part of the city to access theatre and the arts, whether in the theatre itself, or out in the community. Bristol Old Vic is currently running projects in every ward of the city, focussing on communities who traditionally have little engagement with the arts and providing invaluable opportunities in schools to help young people develop their creativity, potential and self-esteem.
Speaking today, Chief Executive Emma Stenning said: “For too many decades theatre has been seen as something elitist and often inaccessible to many. We work very hard out in the city to create opportunities for people who maybe don’t feel theatre is for them, but our public spaces were all about grand staircases and unreachable areas. Through this redevelopment, at long last we can show how Bristol Old Vic has kicked down the doors separating us from the city and make this a place that is genuinely and committedly for everyone to share and enjoy.”
30th November – CALLING ALL ARTISTS! APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR 2018 OFFBEAT FESTIVAL
Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station are thrilled to announce the return of Offbeat. Now in its third year, this vibrant festival at the heart of Oxford showcases the best in fringe theatre from across the UK in 9 action-packed days.
Running from 22 – 30 June, Offbeat 2018 will see more than 50 performances across 6 stages, and for the first time will incorporate Oxford Playhouse’s 640 seat auditorium. The festival aims for at least a quarter of the programme to be from local artists and companies, and all the performances are of works never before seen in Oxford. The vast majority of the tickets will be priced at £10 or less, allowing as many people as possible to access this hugely exciting festival.
Applications to take part in Offbeat 2018 are now open. Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station are inviting performers from across the country to apply and everything from work in progress to established productions will be considered. To apply to take part please visit www.offbeatoxford.co.uk/apply and submit your application before 30 January 2017.
Jeremy Spafford, Director at the Old Fire Station said today “We love Offbeat. It is a moment when two great organisations come together to bring some of the best small scale contemporary work to Oxford audiences. We’re hoping even more artists apply this year because we want this festival to grow and grow.”
Louise Chantal, Director at Oxford Playhouse, said “Offbeat really has grown fast to become a significant event in the calendar for theatremakers in Oxfordshire and beyond. It’s thrilling to introduce such a range of brand new performance to our city.”
Launched in 2016, Offbeat was born to bring a mini ‘Edinburgh Festival’ to Oxford. Last year’s festival nearly doubled the audience from the inaugural year to more than 2600, with performance highlights including Boris the Musical; comedians Mark Thomas, Chris Coltrane and BBC 4’s Viv Groskop; site-specific theatre Wrecked set in a crashed car; performances for families including the sold out The Light House Keeper’s Lunch alongside Oxford-based artists including Playhouse Playmaker alumni Karim Khan’s Orange Juice and Human Story Theatre’s The Fourth Dog.
To see highlights from the 2017 festival visit: http://www.offbeatoxford.co.uk/about
For more information on the festival visit: www.offbeatoxford.co.uk
Offbeat is made possible with support from Arts Council England.
For further information, please contact: Oxford Playhouse on 01865 305398 / email@example.com
28th November – DOUBLE YOUR DONATION TO BRISTOL OLD VIC THIS CHRISTMAS.
This year, Bristol Old Vic is delighted to have been selected to take part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge, meaning that all donations made to the theatre over the next week will be doubled!
Any money donated via the Big Give website (bit.ly/bristololdvicbiggive) between midday today (Tue 28 Nov) and midday on Tue 5 Dec, the Big Give Christmas Challenge will match your donation and Bristol Old Vic will receive double your gift.
Philanthropist and Bristol Old Vic Board Member Helen Wilde said: “We’re really excited to be participating in the Big Give Christmas Challenge this year and thrilled to have secured matched funding, which comes from The Reed Foundation. This is our one opportunity to turn to our brilliant Bristol public and ask for help to finish our capital appeal, by doubling their donation during Challenge Week. Our target is just £20,000 and it’s really important to us that everyone knows that their support, at whatever level, whether £5 or £50, really does make a difference.”
With gifts available from £5, there’s something for every pocket – why not use your Black Friday savings to do double the amount of good, and nab the ultimate Christmas gift for the theatre lover in your life.
- £5 sponsors a packet of seeds for our new living roof and you’ll receive a personalised thank you tweet.
- £10 sponsors an energy-efficient LED lamp for the chandeliers in Coopers’ Hall, and you’ll also receive a unique Bristol Old Vic Christmas haiku.
- £25 sponsors a bolt that secures the new diagrid roof in our foyer. You’ll also receive a thank you postcard from a member of Made in Bristol, our young theatre-makers programme.
- £50 buys you a brick reclaimed from our 1970s Studio. Collect from us, together with an authentication certificate.
- £500 sponsors a seat in our new Studio.
- £2,500 or £5,000 sponsors the best seats in our Georgian auditorium.
All money raised will go towards funding the final stage of Bristol Old Vic’s Capital Appeal. With just £20,000 left to raise, we need your support to ensure the project is completed, and your theatre transformed.
Bristol Old Vic Development Director Zoe Crick-Tucker said: “Our campaign is helping us to raise valuable funds to fit out our vital new Studio – a space which will see work presented from visiting companies, alongside providing a place of experimentation and development for our Engagement activity, and a designated testbed for Ferment artists (our Artist Development programme). We hope that the public is as excited as we are to see this new space filled with imaginative and daring new work.”
The redevelopment project includes commitments to:
- Transform our King Street Front of House space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol – and beyond – to enjoy;
- Build a brand new, state-of-the-art Studio, which will be used by our award-winning Young Company, by Ferment – our new writing strand supporting emerging artists, and by a whole host of inspiring visitors we’ll be able to bring to the city;
- For the first time, open up the theatre’s unique 250-year heritage to the public through a series of interactive, accessible on-site activities.
With your help, the project is due to be completed in autumn 2018, and will completely overhaul the audience experience, and bring to life the last 250 years of Bristol Old Vic’s unique and amazing history.
To support our journey, and to make double the difference, please visit: bit.ly/bristololdvicbiggive.
21st November – THE BIRMINGHAM REP GETS TAILS WAGGING WITH FUNDRAISING EFFORTS FOR HEARING DOGS.
Registered charity, Birmingham Repertory Theatre has announced a joint fundraising partnership with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. The city centre theatre will be raising funds during the run of their production of The Hundred and One Dalmatians which bursts to life on stage from Thursday 30 November – Saturday 13 January.
There are various fundraising activities planned during the run of the show, which will help to jointly fundraise towards Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s million pound campaign REP First and the work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
REP First is a three year campaign which aims to raise vital funds in order to ensure that the theatre can continue to nurture the region’s talented young artists, commission exciting new works, welcome new audiences and reach out to the communities of Birmingham and beyond.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, now in their 35th year, trains dogs to alert deaf people to sounds they would otherwise miss – simple sounds that many people take for granted like the doorbell, alarm clock and even danger signals like the fire alarm. A hearing dog can also give a deaf person a newfound sense of independence and confidence helping to overcome the feeling of isolation and loneliness experienced by so many suffering from hearing loss.
Twenty pence of every pound raised will go towards the work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, with the remainder going towards REP First initiatives, such as providing interpreters for the REP’s youth theatre in order for Deaf children and young people to take part, as well as allowing the theatre to stage more accessible productions for people with a variety of additional support needs.
Steve Heyes, Marketing Manager of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People said;
“It’s wonderful that Hearing Dogs has been chosen as the official partner charity for The Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of ‘101 Dalmatians’, especially in this, our 35th year. We’re working closely with The REP on a number of fun and exciting plans to engage families and visitors coming to see the show, to help raise awareness of the amazing work our hearing dogs do, completely transforming the lives of thousands of Deaf people in the UK. We’ll hopefully raise some important funds for the two charities during the show’s run.”
As part of The REP’s commitment to making theatre accessible to everyone, the entire run of The Hundred and One Dalmatians will be Audio Described and Captioned, meaning that audiences with visual or hearing impairments can enjoy these services on any performance.
Dalmatians Pongo and Missis enjoy an idyllic life with their humans, Mr and Mrs Dearly. Then one day, the house is filled with the patter of tiny paws when Missis gives birth to a litter of adorable puppies. But just as the Dearlys get used to their new housemates, the puppies mysteriously vanish.
With the help of the canine community and an Old English Sheepdog, Pongo and Missis set out on an adventure to find the missing puppies. Their quest leads them to the vicious Cruella de Vil. She hates dogs but loves fur coats and has set her sights on a certain black and white spotty pattern. Will the animals be able to get home safely in time for Christmas?
Children and adults alike will be gripped by this magical tale as it comes to life live on stage, complete with beautiful staging and mesmerising puppetry from Director Tessa Walker and Designer Jamie Vartan who collaborated for the record-breaking 2015 production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Dodie Smith’s delightful and much-loved tale, adapted for the stage by the Writer and Director of the hugely popular Nativity! films, Debbie Isitt, is sure to get tails wagging this Christmas.
14th November – Wise Children today announces that Judith Dimant and Poppy Keeling will join Emma Rice to lead the newly formed company. Keeling will take up her role as Executive Producer in the new year, with Dimant joining as Executive Director later in the Spring as the company launch nationwide. Both join Bristol based Wise Children from Complicité.
Judith Dimant said today, “After 25 years at Complicité I feel privileged to join Emma Rice at the start of this new venture. Emma is an artist I have long admired and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her.”
Emma Rice commented, “Judith and Poppy bring an unparalleled wealth of skills, understanding and experience to Wise Children – not to mention their unique shared history. I feel lucky beyond words to share the Wise Children journey with these remarkable women by my side – prepare for wonders!”
Judith Dimant is currently Executive Producer at Complicité where she has worked opposite Simon McBurney since 1993. Her work with Complicité includes The Encounter, Lionboy, The Master and Margarita, Shun-Kin, A Disappearing Number, The Elephant Vanishes, Mnemonic, The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, The Chairs, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, the revival of A Minute Too Late and seasons in London’s West End, Broadway and Off-Broadway. She also designed and leads the new Complicite Associates Programme through which the Company supports brilliant emerging and mid-career artists. As part of which scheme she produced Bryony Kimmings’ A Pacifist’s Guide to the War On Cancer in 2016. Before joining Complicité, Dimant was press officer at the Royal Court Theatre, Administrator for Glynis Henderson Management (touring companies including STOMP) and for four years she programmed comedy and ran the Press Office at the Pleasance Theatre Edinburgh Fringe festival. In 2014, Dimant was awarded an MBE for Services to Drama.
Poppy Keeling has worked at Complicité for nearly ten years, as a Producer and as the Director of the company’s award-winning Creative Learning Programme. As producer, productions include The Encounter, A Pacifist’s Guide to the War On Cancer, Lionboy, The Master and Margarita, Endgame, Shun-Kin and A Disappearing Number. Creative Learning work includes participatory projects Like Mother, Like Daughter for mothers and daughters from different religious groups; the Ensemble Maths Project; Seen and Not Heard with Kirsty Housley; and the award-winning Tea with Geraldine Pilgrim.
EMMA RICE ON WISE CHILDREN:
Wise Children is a new company conceived, created and led by me, Emma Rice. Firmly and deeply rooted in the South West, it is the beginning of a crisp new chapter and the culmination of the process and beliefs I have developed over my surprising career. It is built on strong and tested foundations, and even the thought of it makes me resonate with hope, glee and anticipation. Inclusive and passionate, Wise Children will make exceptional, contemporary, ensemble-based theatre – but its mission is so much more.
Wise Children will be a National Portfolio Organisation, with offices at Spike Island in Bristol.
Roger Graef OBE, Chair of Complicité added, “We’re very sad to see Judith and Poppy go but delighted they are going on to something so exciting, and we’re looking forward to a new chapter for Complicité.”
Complicité will announce their future plans shortly.
11th October – Oxford Playhouse has a new Chair of the Board. Elizabeth Paris has recently taken over from Danby Bloch, who has served as Chair of Trustees for the past 8 years.
Elizabeth Paris, a Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, is an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. This follows a 19 year career as a Managing Director in investment banking at Chase Manhattan and JP Morgan. She currently also serves as Chair of The Orwell Youth Prize and Chair of Didcot Garden Town Board, and is a Trustee of The Orwell Foundation. Previous board experience includes nine years on the board of the Crafts Council, also an Arts Council England funded organisation, and nine years as a Governor of the educational group Activate Learning.
Louise Chantal, Director of Oxford Playhouse says:
‘Elizabeth brings a wealth of business and finance experience to the Playhouse, coupled with a real passion for the arts and Oxfordshire. Her appointment marks an exciting time for the Playhouse as she takes over from Danby, who has contributed so much over the last 8 years.’
Elizabeth will serve an initial 4-year term as Chair of Trustees. Three other Trustees have also been appointed to serve for 4 years: development consultant Moss Cooper, business and IT expert Warwick Hampden-Woodfall and Andrew Parker, currently domestic bursar of Somerville College and former Finance Director of Finance and Administration at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Following a triumphant premiere as part of the Theatre’s 250th Anniversary season, Bristol Old Vic is delighted to announce the long awaited news that The Grinning Man will transfer to the West End for a run in Studio 1 at Trafalgar Studios. Performances will begin on Tuesday 5 December, with tickets going on sale next Wednesday 11 October.The rumour mill has been speculating since August about the possibility of a future life for this trailblazing musical from director Tom Morris and we are delighted to be able to confirm this today.
This production joins several other recent Bristol Old Vic hit shows in transferring to the London stage, including Peter Pan and Jane Eyre at the National Theatre and Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville at Wyndham’s Theatre opening January 2018.
A strange new act has arrived at the fairground. Who is Grinpayne and how did he get his hideous smile? Helped by an old man, a lone wolf and a blind girl, his story must be told. The epic tale of an abandoned child with a terrible secret. A disfigured youth who is desperate to hide and a sightless girl who longs to be discovered. Let the darkness seduce you.
The Grinning Man is a macabre new musical directed by Tom Morris and based on The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo (Les Misérables). Brought to life by writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase) “powered by an outstanding score” (The Sunday Times) from Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler and puppetry from Gyre & Gimble, the original puppeteers of War Horse. The cast is led by Louis Maskell and Julian Bleach, who will reprise the roles of Grinpayne and Barkilphedro during the London run.
After gaining cult-like status amongst Bristolians who caught the show at Bristol Old Vic, the production has garnered major award nominations (WhatsOnStage Awards, UK Theatre Awards, BroadwayWorld UK Awards) and a flurry of critical acclaim (“blackly comic brilliance” The Telegraph, “defies theatrical convention” The Guardian) proving laughter really is the best medicine.
2nd October – The North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford announces the appointment of John Hoggarth and Ria Parry as the new Co-Directors. They will join the Oxford venue in November this year.
On their appointment, John and Ria said: “We are delighted to join The North Wall as Co-Directors. We are hugely excited by the organisation’s steadfast support for bold new work and emerging talent. We look forward to enhancing its reputation as a centre of excellence that inspires the next generation of artists, musicians and theatre makers.”
Mike Stanfield, Chairman of The North Wall Trust, commented, “John and Ria’s extensive experience both in theatre and with young people makes them the perfect pair to drive The North Wall forward on a number of levels. The breadth of their work in theatre and the arts brings fresh thinking to the venue, ensuring that it will continue to fulfil its mission to inspire and to educate – in the wider community, and within St Edward’s School.”
Ria Parry has directed work for the Bush Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Unicorn Theatre and Out of Joint. She was a Producer at Watford Palace Theatre before being awarded the National Theatre Leverhulme Bursary for Emerging Directors in 2010, becoming Resident Director at the National Theatre Studio.
John Hoggarth was Joint Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre 2003-2008. As a writer and director John has developed a reputation for nurturing comedy talent, and has seen collaborations lead to Perrier nominations, and the winning of both the ‘So You Think You’re Funny?’ award and the BBC New Talent award.
John and Ria are co-founders of the critically acclaimed Iron Shoes, previously Associate Company at the Bush Theatre. They have received two Scotsman Fringe First Awards for Mad About The Boy by Gbolahan Obisesan and Crush by Paul Charlton, and been nominated for several others including Best of the Fringe New York Award, whatsonstage Best Off West End Production, and two Stage Acting Awards. They have worked closely with The North Wall over the last few years as co-directors on several ArtsLab projects, and have a strong reputation for nurturing and supporting the talents of young and emerging artists.
Ria Parry and John Hoggarth’s appointment coincides with the tenth anniversary of The North Wall. Over the last decade, the venue has established itself as an innovative performance and gallery space for Oxford and beyond. With a deliberate emphasis on offering alternatives to the mainstream, the eclectic public programme has featured a number of celebrated theatre companies from across the UK, including Paines Plough, Theatre Ad Infinitum, 1927, Shared Experience and Out of Joint.
Theatre Royal Bath and Bath College launch brand new BATH THEATRE ACADEMY.Theatre Royal Bath is pleased to announce an exciting and ambitious new partnership with Bath College. The newly-formed Bath Theatre Academy will offer students studying on the full-time Level 3 UAL Performing and Production Arts course at Bath College a unique curriculum that combines a practical introductory theatre programme with real-life industry experience.
The Performing and Production Arts course will be delivered at both the Theatre and the College, and is aimed at students aged 16 and over. Students will have weekly use of professional rehearsal studios as well as access to the world-renowned Theatre Royal Bath and its three dedicated performance spaces.
Jon Domaille, Head of Creative Arts and Enterprise at Bath College, comments, “We are incredibly excited about this innovative partnership. This venture will provide our students with a clear ‘line of sight’ into the performing arts industry. To have professionals from the world of performance and production feeding directly into our curriculum is invaluable and will provide our learners with vocationally relevant, exciting and memorable experiences in a professional and creative environment.”
James Moore, Course Leader and Acting Head of Creative Learning at Theatre Royal Bath, has designed the new course to work with the theatre. “The creative curriculum empowers students to begin making choices about the theatre makers that they would like to be, drawing on their interests and allowing for student lead progression. Working in a professional theatre will allow students to be fully immersed within the world of theatre making, enabling a fully rounded experience of the standards and expectations of a professional theatre maker.”
The new course will offer:
- Dedicated teaching from a variety of active and leading industry professionals
- Access to the full suite of spaces and resources at Theatre Royal Bath
- Professional mentoring and career advice from industry insiders
- A clear line of progression from course to employment or further study
- A commitment to students’ routes into the industry
James adds, “The students we will work with are dedicated and committed to the performing arts industry with a passion to create innovative and exceptional new theatre, on or off stage, and this course offers an unparalleled insight into the industry.”
Places are still available on the course, and applications for the Bath Theatre Academy can be made through the college – full details about the application process can be found online at www.bathcollege.ac.uk
8th May – RARE OPPORTUNITY TO OWN A PIECE OF THEATRE HISTORY.
The iconic Bristol Hippodrome is saying goodbye to their historic theatre seats this summer and are offering the opportunity for you to own a piece of the theatre’s history.
The theatre is a superb example of the grand architecture of the late Victorian era and is one of the masterpieces of design by Frank Matcham, the most eminent theatre architect of his time.
Having survived the war unscathed during which time the theatre contributed enormously to the morale of Bristolians with a continuous run of first-rate entertainment, it was a tragic irony when a disastrous fire broke out and almost destroyed it in 1948.
The seats have been in situ following that fire and have been witness to some huge shows and great performers. So if you are a theatre lover looking for a unique talking point for your home, your venue or your business look no further! Jenny Hutchinson, General Manager says, “This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of Bristol Hippodrome history that may also hold some very special memories for you or a loved one.”
The Bristol Hippodrome will be making a generous donation to a local Bristol charity, selected from those nominated by purchasers, so this is also a great opportunity to support an important cause.
Seats will be sold on a first come first serve basis and will require collection w/c 21st August 2017.