Full casting for A Monster Calls at the Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic

A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

The Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic today announced the full casting for the world premiere of A Monster CallsPatrick Ness’ piercing novel A Monster Calls is brought to The Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic stages in The Old Vic’s 200th year in a powerful new adaptation by visionary director Sally Cookson. The cast includes Hammed AnimashaunNandi Bhebhe, Selina Cadell, Matt Costain, Georgia Frost, Stuart Goodwin, Felix Hayes, Jonathan Holby, John Leader, Marianne Oldham, Matthew Tennyson and Witney White.

‘Stories are wild creatures,’ the monster said. ‘When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?’

Thirteen-year-old Conor and his mum have managed just fine since his dad moved to America. But now his mum’s very sick and she’s not getting any better. His grandmother won’t stop interfering and the kids at school won’t look him in the eye.

Then, one night, at seven minutes past midnight, Conor is woken by something at his window. A monster has come walking. It’s come to tell Conor tales from when it walked before. And when it’s finished, Conor must tell his own story and face his deepest fears.

On publication, A Monster Calls became a bestseller with children and adults alike with its dazzling insight into love, loss and healing. It garnered huge critical acclaim, including an unprecedented double win of the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals for outstanding children’s literature and illustration. This adaptation is suitable for ages 10+.

Sally Cookson, Director, said The prospect of adapting Patrick Ness’ beautiful book is a tantalising one and I am chomping at the bit to get started. The story of thirteen-year-old Conor lost in a mire of anxiety and fear strikes a chord with anyone who’s been threatened with losing someone they love. The combination of gritty realism and magic make it perfect material for theatre – I love a challenge and the big question will be ‘How are they going to create a Tree Monster on stage?’ Come and find out!’

Patrick Ness, Writer, said ‘A Monster Calls has always been a collaboration, in all its forms. I like to say I took the baton from the late, great Siobhan Dowd, then handed it on to our illustrator Jim Kay, and what came out was something bigger than anything the three of us could have done by ourselves. I’m now so excited to hand that baton on to the amazing Sally Cookson. She’s assembled an outstanding company. What a treat this is going to be!’

Hammed Animashaun plays Anton. His theatre credits include Barber Shop ChroniclesAmadeusThe Threepenny Opera (National Theatre); The Importance of Being EarnestA Midsummer Night’s DreamBugsy MaloneSecret Theatre (Lyric Hammersmith); Measure for Measure (Young Vic); Hate (Barbican); HerosMarried to the Game (Theatre 503); The Boy Who Fell Into a Book (Soho Theatre) and Mogadishu (National Tour). Television work includes Breeders, Furious Andrew-Blap, Black Mirror, Pls Like!, Flowers, Wizard Sleeve, Deadbeats and The Mimic. Film credits include The FestivalThe Ellington KidTwenty8kBorrowed Time and Tooting Broadway.

Nandi Bhebhe plays Teacher. Her theatre credits include The Tin Drum (Liverpool Everyman/UK tour); Twelfth Night, 946, A Midsummer Night’s Dream(Shakespeare’s Globe); A Season in the Congo (Young Vic); Fela! (National Theatre/Broadway) and 5,6,7,8 (Royal Court).

Selina Cadell plays Grandmother. Her theatre credits include Humble Boy (Orange Tree Theatre); The Dresser (Duke Of York’s); People, The Habit of Art, Stanley (National Theatre); The Line (Arcola Theatre); The Cherry Orchard (The Old Vic); The Clean House (Sheffield Crucible); The Government Inspector (Chichester Festival Theatre); The Rivals (Bristol Old Vic); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Albery Theatre); Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya (Donmar Warehouse). Her television credits include Love Nina, The Lady Vanishes, Father Brown, Upstairs Downstairs, Toast, Spooks, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Bremner, Bird and Fortune, The Catherine Tate Show, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, Casanova, Foyle’s War, Sword of Honour, Great Expectations, As Time Goes By, People Like Us and Doc Martin. Her film credits include The Lady in The Van, Papadopoulos & Sons, Gambit, Nativity, Hereafter, Confetti, Snowcake, Festival, Matchpoint, Mrs Dalloway and The Madness of King George.

Matt Costain is in the ensemble. His theatre credits include La Strada (West End/National tour); Hetty Feather (West End/ National tour); Wendy and PeterHenry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Richard III (RSC); War Horse, The Birds (National Theatre); Macbeth, Pericles, Man Falling Down (Shakespeare’s Globe); The Tempest (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dr. Faustus, The Master and Margarita (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Treasure Island (Theatre Royal Haymarket).

Georgia Frost plays Sully. Her theatre credits include The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Little Mermaid (the egg). Her television credits includeCasualtyMagic of Musicals and Fred and Rose.

Stuart Goodwin plays Monster. His theatre credits include La Strada (The Other Palace/UK tour); Sleeping Beauty (Bristol Old Vic); A Conversation, Two Clouds Over Eden, Peer Gynt (Manchester Royal Exchange); The Gentleman (Jermyn Street Theatre); A Russian in the Woods, Julius Caesar, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (RSC); The Country Wife (Sheffield Crucible) and The Three Musketeers (Young Vic). His television credits include Doctors, Strictly Confidential, The Bill, Prime Suspect 6, State of Play, Wire in The Blood, State of Mind, The Bill and Always and Everyone. His film credits include Cashback and Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

Felix Hayes plays Dad. His theatre credits include Vice Versa, The Tempest, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, City Madam, Cardenio, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC); Peter Pan, Jane Eyre (Bristol Old Vic/National Theatre); One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Adventures of Pinocchio, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and A Christmas Carol (Tobacco Factory). His television credits include Three Girls, A Gert Lush Christmas Special, Drunk HistoriesFriday Night Dinner and Roisin Conaty.

Jonathan Holby is a Swing. His theatre credits include A Tale of Two CitiesLord of the Flies, Peter Pan (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre); Mirrorball (Arcola Theatre) and The Renaissance Body (RSC). His television and film credits include QueensThe Terrible Tale of Henrietta TateThe IntentBlood and Glory and Beatgirl.

John Leader plays Harry. His theatre credits include Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: A Reimagining (Shakespeare’s Globe); The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe(West Yorkshire Playhouse); Peter Pan, War Horse (National Theatre); Running Wild (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Orange Tree).

Marianne Oldham plays Mum. Her theatre credits include Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (The Old Vic); The Argument (Hampstead Theatre); The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Chichester Festival Theatre); Sons without Fathers, Uncle Vanya (Arcola Theatre/The Belgrade Theatre); You Can Still Make a Killing, The Cherry Orchard (Southwark Playhouse); An Inspector Calls (West End) and How Many Miles to Basra (West Yorkshire Playhouse). Her television credits include The Living and the Dead, Life in Squares, The Musketeers, Foyle’s War, The Crimson Field, Doctors, The Impressionists and WPC56. Her film credits include Finding Your Feet, Absolutely Anything, Silent Girl, Titus and 500 Miles North.

Matthew Tennyson plays Conor. His theatre credits include Making Noise Quietly (Donmar Warehouse); Flare Path (Theatre Royal Haymarket); Salomé (RSC); Cleansed (National Theatre); The Seagull (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre); A Breakfast of Eels (The Print Room); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Beautiful Thing (Manchester Royal Exchange). His television credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, GrantchesterHumansBabylonFather Brown and The Hollow Crown. His film credits include Making Noise Quietly. Matthew received an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer in 2012.

Witney White plays Lily. Her theatre credits include Loserville (West End); Wonderland (National Theatre); Dusty (Charing Cross Theatre) and Room (Stratford East/Dundee Rep/Abbey Theatre). Her television credits include Clean Break and Doctors.

Sally Cookson trained at LAMDA and worked as an actor for ten years before embarking on a freelance directing career. Her theatre credits include The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Jane Eyre and Peter Pan (Bristol Old Vic/National Theatre). She is an associate artist at Bristol Old Vic, where other productions include Sleeping BeautyTreasure IslandThe Boy Who Cried WolfPapa Please Get the Moon for MeClownStrange CasePericlesPains of Youth and The Visit. Her numerous collaborations with Travelling Light theatre include Strictly BaltiThe Ugly DucklingBoing!How Cold My ToesShadowplayCloudlandLenny and Bob the Man on the Moon. Other theatre includes One Hundred and One DalmatiansAli Baba and the Forty ThievesCinderella – A Fairytale (Tobacco Factory Theatre, Olivier Award nomination); La StradaHetty Feather (Olivier Award nomination); We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Kenny Wax Productions); Romeo and Juliet (The Rose Theatre); Stick Man and Tiddler (Scamp Theatre).

Director Sally Cookson

Writer in the Room Adam Peck

Set Designer Michael Vale

Costume Designer Katie Sykes

Composer Benji Bower

Lighting Aideen Malone

Sound Mike Beer

Projection Dick Straker

Casting Jessica Ronane CDG

Movement Dan Canham

Puppetry Laura Cubitt

Aerial Matt Costain

Associate Director Miranda Cromwell

Bristol Old Vic’s “Messiah” to be screened at over 300 cinemas this Easter

Image from 2017 Bristol Old Vic revival of "Messiah"
Image from 2017 Bristol Old Vic revival of "Messiah"

Image from 2017 Bristol Old Vic revival of “Messiah”

CinemaLive are to release Handel’s Messiah from Bristol Old Vic in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on Wednesday 28 March 2018.

Bristol Old Vic is delighted to announce their partnership with Event cinema specialists CinemaLive to deliver the theatre’s critically acclaimed 2017 production of Handel’s Messiah to cinema audiences for Easter 2018. It is due to be screened in over 300 cinemas on the 28 March, including Bristol’s Vue Cinemas (Cribbs Causeway and Longwell Green), The Everyman and Bristol Showcase Cinema De Lux.

This dramatised production of Messiah is staged by Bristol Old Vic’s Tony Award-winning Artistic Director Tom Morris. 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 (actor and Artistic Director of Bristol company Extraordinary Bodies) reprises his role from the 2017 theatre production as he performs the central non-speaking role of The Beloved.

Recorded in April 2017, Messiah returned to Bristol Old Vic following its sell-out debut at Bristol Proms in 2013. UK Theatre Web, Stage Talk, Classical Source, and The Reviews Hub all gave the production five-star reviews. The Times said “Director Tom Morris makes good use of the Old Vic’s intimate auditorium for this direct and impactful interpretation of Handel’s oratorio”. The Stage called it a “astonishingly beautiful” and “a relatable and very human story of loss and grief.”

Positioned between opera and theatre, this powerfully accessible interpretation of Handel’s seminal work explores the drama and struggle of faith, showing a bereaved community whose grief at the loss of their leader is transformed into hope through a narrative of resurrection. Inspired by early performances of the work, which were staged in theatres and concert halls rather than churches, including its first performance at Bristol Old Vic in 1782, it is a rare treat for connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.

CinemaLive Director Janelle Mason commented: “We’re absolutely delighted to be working with Bristol Old Vic to bring such a highly acclaimed and powerful production to our cinema audiences for Easter.”

Tom Morris, Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic and director of Messiahsaid: “The Bristol Proms, staged in our ancient Georgian theatre set out to bring live audiences closer to classical music. For this staging of Messiah, we collaborated with the peerless English Concert and some of the world’s finest vocalists: Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Joshua Ellicott, Brindley Sherratt and Julia Doyle, alongside the charismatic actor Jamie Beddard.  Our aim was to explore the emotional drama of Handel’s music in the unique intimacy of our theatre, and thanks to the talents of film director Nick Wickham, a broader audience beyond our theatre can now also feel this intimacy from a cinema seat.”

For more information, ticketing and a list of all participating cinemas in the UK and Ireland, please visit

Bristol Old Vic unveils major rebrand in its Year of Change

Bristol Old Vic
Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic

As Michael Boyd’s new and ground-breaking version of The Cherry Orchard nears its opening, Bristol Old Vic celebrates this first production in the Year of Change programme by unveiling a new brand and website fit for its future.

At a moment when the world is experiencing unprecedented social, political and environmental upheaval, the theatre is exploring these ideas through a series of major productions looking at change in all its forms. The programme begins with The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov’s masterpiece, which bridges the divide between the longing to hold onto what is familiar, and the irresistible lure of the new. It opens on 1 March for a five week run, before transferring to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Further highlights include the world premiere of Sally Cookson’s A Monster Calls, David Greig’s adaptation of Touching the Void, a fantastical Twelfth Night and the ultimate comedy of human change, A Christmas Carol.  Alongside these, Bristol Old Vic is also collaborating with The Bristol Post, Ujima and other arts organisations across the city in a re-examination of Bristol’s relationship with the Transatlantic Slave Trade which will culminate in a new production The Meaning of Zong, workshopped in the Autumn of 2018 and premiering in 2019.

2018 also marks huge change for Bristol Old Vic’s organisation as the theatre completes a major redevelopment project, this autumn. Since the 18th century, the theatre has been hidden from view and for the last 40 years could only be accessed through an imposing and very grand Georgian Hall. Finally, Bristol Old Vic can fling opens its new front doors and reconnect with its city once again.

Chief Executive, Emma Stenning said:“Bristol Old Vic is in the middle of a huge transformation. We are continuing to develop as a world-class theatre, alongside developing into a major heritage destination and commercial business able to provide beautiful events spaces for hire. We have had the previous logo since before Tom Morris and I arrived in 2009 so, at a moment of huge change to the organisation, it was fitting to mark this milestone through a new visual change too. We are absolutely thrilled by the finished product.”

Artistic Director, Tom Morris continued:
“As we knock down the walls which have hidden the most beautiful theatre in the country for 250 years, our aim is to welcome people from every part of the city to explore it, create work for it and share in its rich history and programme.  Throughout its long and turbulent life, this unique theatre has time and again been rescued and restored by the people of Bristol. It is above all, a theatre that belongs to Bristol and its people. The entire aim of the refurbishment has been to celebrate that relationship and better share the theatre with present and future generations of Bristolians. The new brand is designed to make that invitation loud and clear, in a welcoming, bold and truly Bristolian style.”
As Michael Boyd’s new and ground-breaking version of The Cherry Orchard nears its opening, Bristol Old Vic celebrates this first production in the Year of Change programme by unveiling a new brand and website fit for its future.

At a moment when the world is experiencing unprecedented social, political and environmental upheaval, the theatre is exploring these ideas through a series of major productions looking at change in all its forms. The programme begins with The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov’s masterpiece, which bridges the divide between the longing to hold onto what is familiar, and the irresistible lure of the new. It opens on 1 March for a five week run, before transferring to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Further highlights include the world premiere of Sally Cookson’s A Monster Calls, David Greig’s adaptation of Touching the Void, a fantastical Twelfth Night and the ultimate comedy of human change, A Christmas Carol.  Alongside these, Bristol Old Vic is also collaborating with The Bristol Post, Ujima and other arts organisations across the city in a re-examination of Bristol’s relationship with the Transatlantic Slave Trade which will culminate in a new production The Meaning of Zong, workshopped in the Autumn of 2018 and premiering in 2019.

2018 also marks huge change for Bristol Old Vic’s organisation as the theatre completes a major redevelopment project, this autumn. Since the 18th century, the theatre has been hidden from view and for the last 40 years could only be accessed through an imposing and very grand Georgian Hall. Finally, Bristol Old Vic can fling opens its new front doors and reconnect with its city once again.

Miranda Cromwell returns to Bristol Old Vic with Half Breed

Natasha Marshall
Natasha Marshall

Natasha Marshall

“I am that mixed raced kid, like 50/50, on the fence, luke warm, in-between maybe. Trust me, around here I’m about as black as it goes…”

Jazmin feels different. She doesn’t want to stay in the village. She doesn’t want to have a baby. She doesn’t want to laugh at racist jokes in the local pub. She’s got to get out.

Following its world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 and a run at London’s Soho Theatre, Soho Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company present Half BreedNatasha Marshall’s semi-autobiographical dark comedy about finding your voice, fighting for what you want and being fearless in who you are.

Director Miranda Cromwell returns to Bristol Old Vic where she directed the award-winning Young Company for six years.Speaking today, she said: “This theatre is very special to me, I began my career here as the Young Company Director, it shaped me as an artist and a person. Natasha has performed Half Breed in London, Edinburgh and across India, returning to Bristol and the West Country. I am immensely proud of her and the journey that the production has been on and I am thrilled that Half Breed will be playing in the main house at Bristol Old Vic.”

Natasha Marshall trained on Soho Theatre Young Company’s Writer’s Lab and the Talawa First new-writing scheme. Shortlisted for the Soho Young Writers’ Tony Craze Award 2016 , Alfred Fagon Award (2016) and UK Theatre Award for Best New Play, Half Breed has toured to Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Assembly Box), London’s Soho Theatre (where it hit 93% sales) and internationally to four cities in India including the Jagriti Theatre in Bangalore, running workshops with local schools and arts communities.

‘…compelling and impressive performance from Natasha Marshall…slick, clear and…humorous transitions. The writing is excellent…’ ★ ★ ★ ★ To Do List

★ ★ ★ ★ Evening Standard                                                                   ★ ★ ★ ★ Financial Times

Listings Information:
26  27 Apr
Bristol Old Vic

7.30pm2.30pm (Fri mat)
box office: 0117 987 7877 /

Running Time 65 mins, no interval
Ages 14+
@SohoTheatre #HalfBreed

Written and performed by Natasha Marshall
Directed by Miranda Cromwell
Designed by Ruby Spencer Pugh
Lighting Design by Amy Mae
Sound Design by Xana

Full casting announced for The Cherry Orchard, a Bristol Old Vic and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production

The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard

Full casting for Michael Boyd’s much anticipated production of The Cherry Orchard is announced today as rehearsals begin for the Bristol Old Vic and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production. Rory Mullarkey’s brand-new translation will be directed by Boyd, celebrated former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Having studied Russian and trained as a director in Moscow, extraordinarily, he will be directing Chekhov – the literary love of his life – for the first time.

Kirsty Bushell and Jude Owusu lead the ensemble in this vivid new production, which opens at Bristol Old Vic 1 March – 7 April, before transferring to Manchester’s Royal Exchange from 19 April – 19 May.

Chekhov’s final masterpiece is full of wild humour and piercing sadness in this fresh, funny and honest new translation. A portrait of changing times, it maps the bittersweet tensions between the desperate longing to hold onto what is familiar, and the restless lure of the new. Revolution hangs in the air, the poor and hungry are pushing at the doors, and a civilised and complacent culture is on the brink of collapse…

 Kirsty Bushell plays Ranyevskaya, a woman whose liberal world of privilege and pleasure is beginning to show cracks while she and her family live on in denial. Kirsty was recently seen on television in BBC’s Motherland, but it is on stage where she has earned her renowned reputation. Her career is one of dynamic variety, spanning roles from Olivia in the RSC’s Twelfth Night and Juliet for Shakespeare’s Globe

to Vittoria in The White Devil (RSC), the title role in Hedda Gabler, and the recent “pitch-perfect” Regan opposite Ian McKellan’s King Lear. Her career also spans new works such as the recent Boys will Be Boys (Headlong/Bush), Torn for the Royal Court and Disgraced (The Bush). She regularly works with some of the leading directors in the world, including Ivo Van Hove, Michael Grandage and Maria Aberg, appearing regularly with the RSC, National Theatre and Royal Court.

 Jude Owusu plays the successful businessman Lopakhin, who has loved Ranyevskaya since childhood and now hopes to be her salvation. Jude’s recent theatre work includes A Tale of Two Cities (Regent’s Park), Gregory Doran’s Julius Caesar, Tim Crouch’s I, Cinna (both RSC/West End) and The Comedy of Errors (National Theatre). His television work includes the acclaimed The Hollow Crown series for BBC.

 They are joined by Simon Coates in the role of Ranyevskaya’s well-intentioned but delusional brother Gayev. Simon has worked extensively with the National Theatre and the RSC, appearing throughout the world in many celebrated productions including: Robert Lepage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tim Supple’s The Comedy of Errors, David Farr’s Coriolanus, Robert Icke’s 1984 and Declan Donnellan’s As You Like It, for which he received an Olivier award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a New York Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor.

BAFTA-nominated Togo Igawa takes the role of Gayev’s elderly servant Firs. In 1986, he became the first Japanese actor to join The Royal Shakespeare Company. His work spans stage, film, anime, games and television. Stage work includes, Her Voice (Dublin Theatre Festival), Pacific Overtures (Donmar), and The Fair Maid of the West (RSC). His film work is extensive and includes Star Wars – The Last Jedi (2017), 47 Ronin (2013), The Last Samurai (2004), Topsy-Turvy (2000) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

Landowner Pischik is played by Julius D’Silva. His extensive theatre credits include Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (West Yorkshire Playhouse & Toronto), Made In Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre), Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare’s Globe/ETT), Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Globe). He has previously worked with Michael Boyd as part of the RSC’s Olivier Award-winningHistories Ensemble 2006–2008. His film credits include Notes on a Scandal and Endgame, and he can currently be seen in TV drama The Crown.

Éva Magyar takes the role of Charlotta. Born in Hungary, she originally took the UK theatre scene by storm with her performance as Yseult in the original Kneehigh/National Theatre production of Tristan and Yseult. Her recent roles include Berthe in Ivo Van Hove’s Hedda Gabler (National Theatre) and the title role of Marlene for Tristan Bates Theatre. Jack Monaghan plays the clerk Yepikhodov. He recently played Benjamin in The Graduate (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Albert in the West End run of War Horse, as well as performing at Shakespeare’s Globe in As You Like It, and at Hampstead Theatre in Deposit.

Bristol Old Vic welcomes back Emma Naomi in the role of the family’s maid, Dunyasha (previously The Crucible, Bristol Old Vic) andEnyi Okoronkwo as the eternal student Trofimov (previously Junkyard, Bristol Old Vic).

The cast also includes two recent Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduates and 2017 Peter O’Toole Prize winners, Verity Blyth as Ranyevskaya’s daughter Anya (13, Tobacco Factory Theatres) and Rosy McEwan as Varya (Julius Caesar, Bristol Old Vic).

They are joined by Hayden Mclean as Yasha (Fair to Middling, New Wimbledon Studio; Ages, Old Vic London), Joseph Hardy (Façade/Strange Joy, East London Music Group) and Harry Humberstone (Ablutions, FellSwoop Theatre).

Michael Boyd, lauded former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, was a trainee director in Moscow at the start of his career, and only now directs his first Chekhov play for Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Exchange Theatre. With a unique ‘in the round’ design created by Tom Piper (co-designer of the poppy installation at the Tower of London in 2014; Romeo and Juliet, RSC; and A Midsummers Night’s Dream, RSC and UK tour), Bristol Old Vic’s theatre will be transformed into a full circle of seating, which mirrors the unique auditorium at the Exchange, allowing audiences to experience every part of this rich and rewarding masterpiece up-close and from every angle.

Rory Mullarkey is a prize-winning playwright and translator. He was the Pearson Writer in Residence at the Royal Exchange, Manchester where he became the youngest playwright ever staged at the Exchange’s main theatre aged just 25. His debut play Cannibals was hailed “one of the most provocative, original and disturbing debuts since Blasted”. In 2014, Rory won the Harold Pinter Playwriting Prize, the George Devine Award (jointly with Alice Birch) and the James Tait Black Prize for Drama. His most recent production was the National theatre’s Saint George and the Dragon and he is currently under commission to the Royal Exchange, The Royal Court, The Almeida and the Michael Grandage Company.


A Bristol Old Vic and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production


Writer Anton Chekhov

Translation Rory Mullarkey

Director Michael Boyd

Designer Tom Piper NATIONAL PRESS NIGHT: Thursday 8 March, 7pm (Bristol Old Vic)

1 Mar – 7 Apr 2018



£35.50-£7.50 / 0117 987 7877 @BristolOldVic #CherryOrchard

19 Apr – 19 May 2018 ROYAL EXCHANGE THEATRE THE THEATRE, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH 7.30pm2.30pm (MATS) Standard tickets from £17.00 / 0161 833 9833 @rxtheatre #CherryOrchard

Bristol Old Vic presents Ferment Fortnight

Ferment Fortnight
Ferment Fortnight

Ferment Fortnight

Work-in-progress festival Ferment Fortnight sees the welcome return of some of the South West’s finest artists to a process which helps them light the spark of an idea. To properly kick-off the new year, Ferment will be presenting “scratch” performances not only on Bristol Old Vic’s main stage, but also across the city at Watershed and Loco Klub. The mini festival showcases new and original work from the likes of Amy Mason, Hannah Sullivan, The Invisible Circus and Toby Thompson amongst many other exciting and inspiring theatre-makers, with the aim that Bristol Old Vic Ferment can support the future life of these works into full-blown productions.

Amongst this Fortnight’s sharings, there are also wrap-around activities including a conversation with last year’s Leverhulme scholars and the very first South West Artists/Venue’s “meet-up” (in the form of a Speed Date).

As always, this is a chance for audiences to get stuck in and feedback to each artist and help them to take their work to the next level.

Ferment is the artist development department of Bristol Old Vic. A year round quest to find, support and nurture local talent, Ferment provides South West artists with an opportunity to explore their theatrical ideas in an ongoing dialogue with audiences. By inviting artists whose work spans genre and form to experiment, play and make the theatre of tomorrow, Ferment continues to develop these vital local voices by offering tailored advice to creatives both emerging and established, and works closely with them through the development process.

Wed 24 Jan
In the Dark
Blueprints for a Working Model of the Future World

Thu 25 Jan
What We Found Out
For The Record
Hollering Women Creek

Fri 26 Jan
How to Grow a Story

Wed 31 Jan

Thu 1 Feb

Fri 2 Feb
The Loneliness Epidemic
A Little Death

Sat 3 Feb
Cardboard Arcade

All performances are £5 unless stated otherwise, and take place in various venues across the city. Please see event listings below for further details.

Age guidance for all performances is 12+.

The Grinning Man’ extends at Trafalgar Studios until 14 April 2018

The Grinning Man
The Grinning Man

The Grinning Man

Londons new smash hit musical The Grinning Man, now playing at the Trafalgar Studios, has today announced a new extended booking period until 14 April.

This critically acclaimed, award-winning production transferred into the West End in December last year, following a hugely successful premiere at Bristol Old Vic, and hasbecome an instant hit across the board – with a wealth of critics, bloggers and audiences raving about The Grinning Man’s new London incarnation. The show receives huge praise and standing ovations at every single performance, with news of the riotous audience reaction spreading sensationally via word of mouth.

 As with the Bristol run, the critics have heaped praise on the show too, with a wealth of glowing reviews for the London production. The Times said “the cast are outstanding”, adding that “it’s a triumph”.  The Observer hailed the production as “miraculous” and the Daily Telegraph raved about the “spectacular puppetry”. The Sunday Express called it “brilliant production” and praised the “awe-inspiring” puppetry. What’s On Stage sums it up: “It is a remarkable, entrancing achievement and a treat for anyone who likes their storytelling with plenty of dark magic thrown in.

As well as critics and the general public, celebrities and creative minds have also heaped praise on the show. Harry Enfield proclaimed “the whole thing is amazing”, while Hannah Waddingham was “overwhelmed” by the production and Mel Giedroyc applauded the “beautiful score” which is “clever and haunting”, declaring ‘’I want to see it again”. Simon Callow exclaimed the show is “spectacular, theatrical and exciting!”

The Grinning Man, directed by Tony award-winning Tom Morris (War Horse), features an “outstanding” cast (The Times).  Led by Louis Maskell in the title role of Grinpayne and Sanne den Besten as Dea, with Julian Bleach as vengeful clown Barkilphedro.  Also starring are Sean Kingsley, Julie Atherton, Amanda Wilkin and Mark Anderson.

Based on the classic Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) novel The Man Who Laughs, this romantic gothic musical love story set in a fantastical world with a dark heart, is brought to life by Kneehigh writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase) and powered by an outstanding score” (Sunday Times) by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler. The Grinning Manreunites Tom Morris with two puppeteers who began their careers inside Joey and Topthorn in the original production of War Horse – Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié – now leading their own puppetry company Gyre & Gimble. 

The Grinning Man joins several other recent Bristol Old Vic hit shows transferring to the London stage, including Swallows & Amazons at the Vaudeville, Peter Pan and Jane Eyre at the National Theatre and Long Days Journey Into Night starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville at the Wyndhams.

The Grinning Man is produced by Bristol Old Vic, Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Eilene Davidson, Richard O’Brien, David Adkin and Neil Laidlaw.

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Louis Maskell, interview: “The Grinning Man has an almost Tim Burton spikiness to it… Like a really intense experience at a nightclub.”

The lead role in The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic’s blockbuster, is the big break Louis Maskell was waiting for. The modest actor explains why he wants to act for ever.


Louis Maskell as Grinpayne

Based on the Victor Hugo (Les Mis) novel and cult silent movie ‘The Man Who Laughs’, this macabre musical fairy-tale features ingenious puppetry and a perfect marriage of the alternative and the discordant mainstream. As well as being expertly written the majority of the songs are skilfully structured. How would he describe the show? “People have a preconceived of Victor Hugo novels; they immediately think it’s going to be long and dark and sombre,” Maskell says.


“This piece has elements of that but it is incredibly funny. The best way is to describe it is that it has got humour and an incredibly touching narrative at its heart, it has an almost Tim Burton spikiness to it,” says Maskell. “New British musicals like The Grinning Man and Everyody’s Talking About Jamie deserve attention – dare to see them, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed,” he says sweetly.


The Grinning Man is directed by Tom Morris (War Horse) – Maskell has nothing but love for his director. “Tom is a genuinely incredible director, it doesn’t surprise me he is artistic director of a theatre like Bristol Old Vic, because he is such a keen builder,” Maskell says.

“Tom rarely ever gets annoyed and his rehearsal room is very collaborative – we have revised the show and then organically created the piece with our new cast members and in turn created a new family of grinning men and women,” he adds.  


On the topic of regional theatre, he is full of praise for the risk-taking happening outside of the capital. “The only way that you can create really good and dynamic musical theatre or plays is by going down the regional theatre road – because in the west end you rarely get anyone putting on a new production; the best theatre is in the regions – all of these really good regional theatres like Sheffield, Leicester Curve and Chichester Festival Theatre, deserve a lot of praise.”

I saw the original production of The Grinning Man at Bristol Old Vic and attended a preview recently. I was struck by how young the audience were, the enthusiasm and affection for the show was palpable. Has he noticed this? “I was very intrigued as to what kind of audience we were going to get but what we’ve found is there is a real hunger from a younger audience for this particular piece. I think it’s because the show feels almost like a really intense experience at a nightclub – it’s got that kind of energy to it,” says Maskell.


He trained at Guilford School of Acting, how important was his time there, I ask. “Massively – it gave me the base for what I do now – it gave me lots of skills to build upon,” he says. “I remember when I first graduated, I found it difficult to crack getting that first job… I did everything that I did at Guilford every day. So, I would warm up and work on my voice and the more I did that the better I became. I found more confidence and I got more jobs. Guilford gave me lessons to implement outside of college.”


What are his favourite musicals? “The shows that I’ve done are the ones that I was obsessed with growing up: My Fair Lady, West Side Story and Fiddler on The Roof. I think Hamilton is an absolute beast… I’ve got quite an eclectic taste,” Maskell says, with a laugh.  

Maskell’s star is in the ascendant. I ask him how he would best sum up 2017. “I’d describe it as a year in which a lot of dreams became a reality,” Maskell says.

Louis is taking it all in his stride. “I’ve got my feet on the ground; being a leading role in a show in London is something that I’ve always aspired to do. To be here doing a new musical is something that I never envisaged achieving; I’m embracing every moment because everything will end at some point,” he says. 

He adds: “Once you’ve achieved a goal you’ve then got to set new goals – I know that I need to now work even harder I love musical theatre. I want to act forever.”

The Grinning Man runs at Trafalgar Studios, London.


First Look: Production Image of The Grinning Man

More celebrity recordings for The Grinning Man! Score of new British musical wows stars

The Grinning Man
The Grinning Man

The Grinning Man

Hot on the heels of last week’s celebrity recordings announcement, more stars have jumped on board to perform their own versions of songs from the West End’s newest British musical, The Grinning Man. Matt Lucas, Kelsey Grammer and Hannah Waddingham have now joined Harry Enfield, Alexander Armstrong and Louise Dearman in a star-studded line-up of celebrities releasing unique versions of their favourite tracks from The Grinning Man.

Directed by Tom Morris, The Grinning Man is now showing at Trafalgar Studios following a hugely successful 2016 premiere at the Bristol Old Vic. This visually stunning production, “powered by an outstanding score” (Sunday Times) composed by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, has entranced audiences and critics alike. Now, unleashed on the West End, the sheer quality of each carefully-considered element of this award-winning musical – from the story, to the set, to the music – has inspired some of the most well-known names in TV, comedy, musical theatre and beyond to make the music of The Grinning Man their own.

The latest songs to be released are now available on YouTube. They are: I Have Never Seen a Face, a stunning duet performed by comedian Matt Lucas and musical theatre star Hannah Waddingham and Stars in the Sky by Frasier actor Kelsey Grammer.

These tracks follow the recordings of Stars in the Sky, by actor Alexander Armstrong, Laughter is the Best Medicine by comedian Harry Enfield, and Born Broken by musical theatre star Louise Dearman. There may be more to come – watch this space!

The critically acclaimed production of The Grinning Man, is based on the classic Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) novel, The Man Who Laughs, and directed by Tony award-winning Tom Morris (War Horse).  A romantic gothic musical love story, set in a fantastical world with a dark heart, which is brought to life by Kneehigh writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase). The cast is led by Louis Maskell, in the title role of Grinpayne, and Julian Bleach, who plays Barkilphedro, a vengeful clown with a heart of lead. Macabre, magical and visually astonishing, this ultimately elating love story is a distinctive delight that barges through the gateway carved by the Nineties cult hit Shockheaded Peter with the full-blooded emotion of Les Misérables.

The Grinning Man reunites Tom Morris with two puppeteers who began their careers inside Joey and Topthorn in the original production of War Horse – Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié – now leading their own brilliant puppetry company Gyre & Gimble.

The Grinning Man is produced by Bristol Old Vic, Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Eilene Davidson, Richard O’Brien, KHAM Inc., David Adkin, Neil Laidlaw Productions and Pieter Toerien.

All tracks can now be enjoyed here:


Previews:                     From Wednesday 6 December

Press night:                 Monday 18 December at 7.00pm

Performances:                        Monday – Saturday7:30pmThursday & Saturday matinees: 2:30pm
Box Office:          0844 871 7632

Ticket Prices:               From £15.00


Twitter:                                   @GrinningManLDN


The producers of The Grinning Man are delighted to continue Bristol Old Vic’s commitment to ensuring that tickets for the highest quality productions remain affordable and accessible, particularly to younger audience members, by offering the following special rate:

£25 UNDER 25 RATE: A general under 25 rate of £25 (redeemable for any standard-priced seat, subject to availability at time of booking) will be available throughout the run for every performance Monday – Thursday inclusive.  Meaning that anybody under 25 will be able to see the show during the week at this special accessible rate. This rate will be available through ATG Tickets, the principal ticketing provider for Trafalgar Studios.