Bristol Old Vic Associate Company Firebird have taken Alan Garner’s short story about childhood hijinx and antics and adapted it for the stage as part of their tenure at Bristol Old Vic.
With a company of 16 actors and a community chorus and musicians, this show certainly has big ambitions and a cast willing to match the heights they are aiming for.
Dealing with issues such as isolation, bullying and identity, the cast, all of whom are disabled, tackle the story and the 40 minute running time with limitless energy and focus. The musicians also fill the space pre-show and during with an original score by Sarah Moody.
The show stumbles however largely down to the fact that the actors are stymied by stringent direction. Each of the actors has moments where their personalities shine through however those moments are few and far between. For a story about play, there is very little fun to be had. The Breadhorse is based on a playground game for children and in playing it safe, the game appears too earnest so when the bullying or the isolation is on display, there isn’t enough at stake to warrant real engagement.
The actors command the stage. What they need is greater license to play and challenge which their instinct so clearly wants them to do.