Morris’ Old Romeo Returns Bristol to ProducingDate: 13 November 2009
Artistic director Tom Morris and chief executive director Emma Stenning have announced their plans for the Bristol Old Vic, as they enter their first season in charge of the newly reopened venue and return it to a producing rather than receiving house (See News, 24 Feb 2009).
Highlights of the inaugural season include Morris' staging of Juliet and Her Romeo, a project which has been “12 years in the making”, and associate director Simon Godwin's revival of Caryl Churchill's 2000 play Far Away.
Announcing the programme at launch events both in Bristol and London, Tom Morris said: “Bristol is a place alive with cultural possibility, and the loyalty of both our local audiences and the national and international theatre industry have won us an opportunity to engage this city in a programme of work conceived and delivered in this uniquely beautiful theatre. These are the first steps of what we hope will be a journey of theatrical discovery for us, for the artists we work with, and for the people of Bristol.”
The three interconnecting themes running through Morris and Stennings’ vision are: a commitment to developing the work of artists from Bristol and the South-west; second, an invitation to world-class artists to make work in response to the building and city; and a programme of “non-professional engagement” with locals through community-based projects and youth theatre.
Juliet and Her Romeo runs from 10 March to 2 May 2010. Developed since 1997 in collaboration with Minder producer Sean O’Connor, the production uses Shakespeare’s text, but casts the lovers in their 80s, with their anxious children, not their parents, seeking to prevent an imprudent and costly match. Morris directs after success at the National with his productions of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and, now in the West End, War Horse.
Far Away, premiered at the Royal Court Upstairs in 2000, concerns an apocalyptic future in which the whole world is at war, including the animals, resulting in odd alliances - horses, French cats, Portuguese taxi-drivers, Latvian dentists. Associate director Simon Godwin’s recent productions include The Winter’s Tale for Headlong Theatre. Far Away runs from 24 May to 9 June 2010.
The first half of 2010 will also include: visiting productions of Eurydice (ATC), submarine drama Kursk (Sound and Fury), Debbie Tucker Green’s random (Royal Court), Twelfth Night (National) and The Forest (Fevered Sleep); a “Winter Song” festival of live music; and the “Memory of Theatre” installation, collecting theatregoing recollections from Bristolians.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com at the London launch, Tom Morris referred to the strong attendance at yesterday's public meeting in Bristol as testament to the support from local people: "It is amazing how many people turned up ... There's an incredibly loyal audience in Bristol and they know that it hasn't quite worked. Lots of people have got opinions about how it should be run, but the key thing from my point of view is that there's an ongoing conversation ... I'd say that so far the work we're programming seems to be engaging people."