Myrtle Theatre are a clever bunch. By developing a community based piece of Verbatim Theatre, they have chosen something quintessentially Bristolian, spans the entire community and brings together people that may not normally have reason to interact: Ballooning.
Using transcribed sections of interviews carried out by Director and Dramaturg Heather Williams, we are taken through the Bristol Balloon Fiesta weekend. From the rude awakening at 4am through to the Nightglows, the trials, tribulations, highs and lows of the ‘Balloonatics' and punters are charted with immense skill, sensitivity and with a true sense of respect.
The ‘Bristol voice', not just the accent but the characters, is well and truly represented in Hot Air. From the toffs, the anoraks, the enthusiasts and the well to do through to the have-nots, the recalcitrants and the nervous, something magical brings them all together – the thrill of being up in the air.
Told through spoken word and song, each moment leads seamlessly onto the next. The 2 ½ hour running time flies by in an evening that is in large part charming, funny and often moving. The South Bristol resident who recognizes that it's not his fault he was born down there (South) and not up there (North), the Flight leader whose wife wants him to quit and the Balloon widow who watches her husband of 19 years fritter the marriage away on a romance of flight and fancy are among some of the more engaging stories.
To single any of the actors out would be doing this ensemble a disservice as each one is part of tightly knit whole. Whilst there are some familiar Bristol stage faces, it is also refreshing to see some new faces on the scene which also adds to the dynamic Myrtle have created.
The piece could have done without much of the philosophy from The Pilot, who acted very much as the Narrator of the evening. Much of what he said, whilst trying to be poetic, was superfluous as the real poetry and the true beauty of the evening came from the real people that were being represented by the cast as a whole. Added to which, some awkward dance drama that opened the second half also held the action up.
That aside, Myrtle, under the Direction of Williams and in the hands of the cast place you firmly in the middle of a landmark event and prove why tapping the community often leads to some of the best material. It's real, it matters and it highlights the best and worst of who we are and we love them for it. Highly recommended.
- Shane Morgan
Hot Air continues at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol until 10 August