Casting announced for the West End transfer of Tom Morris’ production of Touching the Void

Touching The Void by David Greig, directed by Tom Morris. Bristol Old Vic Theatre. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

Casting has today been announced for Touching The Void. Following critically acclaimed runs at the Bristol Old Vic, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Hong Kong Festival and on Tour in the UK Tom Morris’ production of Touching the Void will see original cast members Fiona Hampton, Patrick McNamee and Josh Williams return to the show, joined by Angus Yellowlees. The show will open in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre previewing from November 9th for a strictly limited season with an opening night of November 14th.

Fiona Hampton will play Sarah. Her theatre credits include: Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe); Tamburlaine (Yellow Earth/Arcola Theatre and UK tour); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (New Wolsey Theatre); Private Lives (Octagon Theatre/New Victoria Theatre); Winter HillThe Glass MenagerieTullOf Mice and MenLighthearted Intercourse (all Octagon Theatre); Don’t Laugh (Cockpit Theatre); Playhouse Creatures(Chichester Festival Theatre); The Changeling (The Production Works/Southwark Playhouse); RoarClockheart Boy (Rose Theatre Kingston); The Merchant of Venice (Derby LIVE). Film includes: The Good NeighbourRevolutionKingsman: Secret ServiceThe WindmillLegacy. Television includes: The Collection (Amazon Prime/BBC Worldwide); Switch (ITV); Holby City (BBC); The Sarah Jane Adventures (DW Productions).

Patrick McNamee will play Richard. His theatre credits include: French Without Tears (Orange Tree Theatre); The History Boys (Selladoor);Sweeney ToddA Few Good MenLove and a BottleThe Way of the WorldThree SistersHamletWomen Beware WomenIona RainFor Services Rendered (all LAMDA). Film includes: The Invisible Hours (VR project). Television includes: Series regular on Our GirlInspector George Gently(BBC).

Josh Williams will play Joe. His theatre includes: If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You (Project Arts Centre); One Night in Miami (Donmar Warehouse); Barbarians (Found 111); New Views: Is There a WIFI in Heaven? (National Theatre); Wendy and Peter Pan(RSC); Love and InformationOur Private Life (Royal Court); Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare’s Globe); Shivered (Southwark Playhouse); Lord of the Flies (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). Television includes: DoctorsMay DayHolby City (BBC); Agatha Raison (Sky One); Midsomer Murders,Law and Order (ITV).

Angus Yellowlees will play Simon. Angus trained at LAMDA graduating in 2017 where credits whilst training included Bury FairHobson’s Choiceand The Cherry Orchard. Screen credits include The Last Commanders (BBC) and We Have Everywhere To Go (NFTS). Radio work includes The Balloaloes and The Gnats. Angus is originally from the Scottish Borders and is a keen climber. Touching the Void will be his professional stage debut.

Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris (War Horse, Swallows & Amazons,) directs the first stage version of Touching the Void, adapted by The Lyceum’s David Greig (The Events, The Suppliant Women, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) from the award-winning memoir by Joe Simpson, which also became a BAFTA-winning film. They are joined by Designer Ti Green, Sound Designer and Composer Jon Nicholls, Lighting DesignerChris Davey, Movement Director Sasha Milavic Davies and with casting by Jill Green CDG. This production marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Joe Simpson’s best-selling memoir, charting his extraordinary struggle for survival on the perilous Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes. Alongside this struggle is the appalling dilemma of his climbing partner Simon Yates, perched on an unstable snow-cliff, clinging onto the rope tying him to the severely injured Joe. Unable to recover Joe from the void, Simon is faced with the agonising decision to cut the rope that binds them…


Touching the Void 
Based on the book by Joe Simpson
Adapted by David Greig
Directed by Tom Morris

Performance Dates:

Duke of York’s Theatre
St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4BG
0844 871 7623
Saturday 9th November 2019 – Saturday 29th February 2020
Monday – Saturday 7:30 pm
Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
First Saturday matinee 16th November
First Wednesday matinee 20th November

Press Night Thursday 14th November


Tickets from £15
Groups Bookings: 020 7206 1174
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677

Bristol Old Vic champions D/deaf artists with two brand-new pieces of theatre this May

This month, Bristol Old Vic welcomes ground-breaking companies Mr and Mrs Clark and Deafinitely Theatre into the Weston Studio to raise awareness and challenge perceptions of hearing loss and deafness.

The Weston Studio marks the penultimate stop on Mr and Mrs Clark’s UK-wide tour of Louder is Not Always Clearer, a story of disconnection, difference and desperation to belong. Created and performed by deaf performer Jonny Cotsen it plays from 13 – 15 May, and marks the conclusion of the UK Council on Deafness’ Deaf Awareness Week (6 – 12 May), a UK-wide series of national and local events to raise awareness of the needs of the 1 in 6 deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK.

The play centres on teacher, father and artist Jonny Cotsen. Jonny is deaf and shares his story through a moving, passionate multimedia performance, explaining how he negotiates life as a deaf man in a hearing world.

For a hearing audience it is an illuminating and emotional experience. For deaf audience members, the show is a familiar tale of misunderstanding and isolation. For everyone it is a humorous moving story of one man’s attempt to belong.

The show is accessible to D/deaf, hard of hearing and hearing audiences through the use of spoken English, British Sign Language and creative captions.

Later this month, Deafinitely Theatre and Birmingham Stage Company will present the world premiere of Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf – Live On Stage! (29 May – 1 June). Birmingham Stage Company have produced Horrible Histories live on stage across the UK and throughout the world since 2005 and have now teamed up with Deafinitely Theatre to create the first dedicated production for deaf children and their families.

The show will open in Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio before heading on tour to York Theatre Royal, Stratford Circus Arts Centre, The North Wall and the Derby Theatre.

Horrible Histories will delve into the dreadful, dangerous and deluded stories of the deaf – from groovy Greeks to gorgeous Georgians, ruthless Romans to vile Victorians. The bilingual production is suitable for both D/deaf and hearing audiences and features spoken English and British Sign Language.

Deafinitely Theatre’s Artistic Director and Horrible Histories Director Paula Garfield (4.48 Psychosis), said:

A few years ago I watched my deaf children reading and enjoying Horrible Histories and I was struck by the thought that it would be wonderful for them to have a ‘Deaf Horrible Histories’, showcasing the stories, culture and communities of deaf people throughout history. I also wanted to ensure that D/deaf children today, whether signing or non-signing, can understand the history of their community and feel a sense of belonging and legacy. Horrible Histories is a fun, exciting way to learn and our bilingual production is designed for all to enjoy.”

Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department launches unique partnership with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

Bristol Old Vic

In a bid to harness the writing, acting and technical talents of the South West’s most exciting emerging artists, Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department has partnered with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to present 5 plays and a musical born from The Open Session. New Plays in Rep will include two fully staged productions and four workshop performances. The season of work will take place in The Weston Studio in repertory style and will be performed entirely be Bristol Old Vic Theatre School actors-in-training. Also involved are students on other BA and MA courses, including Design, Production Arts, Costume, Directing and Scenic Art.

Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department introduced its new writing initiative The Open Session in 2014, inviting West Country writers to submit drafts of their projects with the aim of being supported further. Since then, the department has received over 600 scripts, of which 28 were picked up for further development.


 The Dissociation of Shirley Mason
The first fully staged play as part of New Plays in Rep is The Dissociation of Shirley Masonby Isabella Culver.

Isabella Culver is an actress and writer, who is also currently studying Site-Specific Theatre Practice at Mountview. This is her debut play, selected by Bristol Old Vic from its Open Session call-out to West Country writers in 2017.

The play will be directed by Peter Leslie Wild, who directed The Wizard of Oz for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School at the Redgrave Theatre in 2017. Peter’s recent production of Wind in the Willows at the New Vic Theatre received 4 Star Reviews from The Guardian and The Stage.

The Dissociation of Shirley Mason charts the life of Shirley Mason, a young woman of uncertain identity – buffeted by the expectations of family and church in the American town of her childhood. Later, as an art student in New York she feels her personality disintegrating, and a psychiatrist takes a keen interest. Dr Cornelia B Wilbur may have stumbled upon a landmark case to make her reputation.

As the two women’s lives become entwined, lines blur between psychiatry and art, case studies and tall stories, real hurt and false memory.

Inspired by the real-life case of a woman diagnosed as having 16 personalities. This premiere production is an American tale spanning decades up to the 1970s, with questions for us all about where our true selves reside.

The second fully staged play is Matt Grinter’s debut play Orca.

Matt is a Bristol-based writer and director. He is currently on attachment at Bristol Old Vic through The Open Session. His work has appeared in several venues across Britain and beyond, including The Finborough, New York Metropolitan, Trafalgar 2, Glastonbury and Bristol Old Vic. His second play, The Dog and the Elephant was produced in conjunction with Bristol Ferment in 2015 and subsequently turned into a short film. Orca was the winner of the 2016 Papatango New Writing Prize and was first performed at Southwark Playhouse in November 2016.

Orca will be directed by Chloe Masterton, a recent MA Theatre Directing graduate from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

The play takes place on Midsummer’s Day. The village must choose a new Daughter to sail with the fishing boats and bless the waters, keeping the threat of the orcas that roam the sea at bay for another year.

Fan hopes with all her heart to be the one chosen, but her older sister Maggie is adamant she must never, never, go with the boats. Because something happened to Maggie out there. Because no one will admit it. Because sometimes the most beautiful places harbour the darkest secrets.

Orca is an incisive, unflinching insight into what makes a community tolerate the unthinkable.

 Mr Maglump
Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department will also be re-introducing the musical Mr Maglump, following its first outing during The Weston Studio’s Opening Weekend in October. The ‘musical for all ages’ is written by Brook Tate, based on a book he originally wrote and illustrated for his nieces. It has been workshopped with the help of the Writers Department.

On a street where everybody knows their neighbour, one man stands apart – Mr MaglumpBehind his door lies a rather marvellous secret which could turn the town upside down, and quite possibly the right way up. Just one brave child has the courage to find out what it was, or who it was, that put the glum in Maglump.

Brook is a painter, writer and musician based in Bristol. He has been painting since 2011 and has written and illustrated two children’s books, Theresa the Tree and Little Bobby MaddisonMr Maglump is his first musical.


Wonder Boy
The second workshop performance will be Wonder Boy by Ross Willis.

Ross is a member of the Orange Tree Writers’ Collective, BBC Writers Room and a playwright on attachment at Bristol Old Vic. He was the writer-in-residence at Theatre Clwyd and is an alumnus of Tamasha Playwrights and Soho Theatre Writers Lab, where he developed Wonder Boy. Ross is currently one of the 503Five, a group of resident playwrights at Theatre503, where his debut play Wolfie, a surreal telling of life in and after the care system, will open in March. Ross has recently been announced as one of three writers awarded the inaugural Royal Court & Kudos Writing Fellowship.

Wonder Boy tells the story of a schoolboy struggling with a severe stammer, who finds help in a teacher who champions him; but he also has the attention of his comic book creation Captain Chatter, and taunting supervillain William Shakespeare. A dynamic and tender new play that explores the failings of language and grief.

The New Plays In Rep season will also feature Nell Leyshon’s new play, Invalid, which will be performed in Bristol Old Vic’s new studio space, Coopers’ Loft.

Performed entirely in the dark, this evocative new play centres on a woman who is confined to a darkened room. Her young children seem far away but her partner is by her side; however his ability to negotiate the darkness is a strange kind of reassurance. This thrilling and immersive performance takes place with the audience seated.

Nell is a writer of plays, novels, radio drama, and a libretto. Awards in theatre include the Evening Standard Award, and an Olivier nomination (Comfort Me With Apples); for BBC radio drama the Richard Imison Award (Milk); and for internationally published novels the Prix de l’Union Interalliee. Bedlam was the first play written by a woman to be performed at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Nell has written plays for Hampstead Theatre, National Theatre Connections, Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador, Theatre Royal Plymouth, and RADA.


Kingdom or The Anthropocene
The final piece will be Kingdom or The Anthropocene by Skot Wilson.

Skot is a multi-disciplinary writer from Devon. In 2016, he became one of 6 writers on attachment at Bristol Old Vic following his Open Session submission Footsteps. His play Stallions was amongst the eight plays shortlisted from 1,160 for the international Nick Darke Award 2018. He was awarded the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Literary Prize. He also works at the Natural History Museum and has been published in the Journal of Natural History.

Kingdom is Skot’s first staged work.

The tussle for the planet is evoked in this set of surprising short plays looking at the indelible mark human beings have made on animal life – an age named The Anthropocene. Kangaroo boxing, sea wall erosion, earth grubs hiding a murder, and whales thrown off course by a sea full of digital noise, all combine to ask “Whose Kingdom is this?”



Bristol Bus Boycott pioneers attend press night for Princess & The Hustler

Bus Boycott campaigners Roy Hackett, Paul Stephenson and Barbara Dettering chat with Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director Tom Morris and Eclipse Theatre Company’s Artistic Director and Director of Princess & The Hustler, Dawn Walton. (Photo by Harry Plowden)

Bristol Old Vic last night welcomed Bristol’s pioneering Civil Rights campaigners Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett and Barbara Dettering at the press performance for Eclipse Theatre Company, Bristol Old Vic and Hull Truck Theatre’s co-production Princess & The Hustler.

The new play by Bristol playwright Chinonyerem Odimba is set in 1960s Bristol on the cusp of change. Set against the backdrop of the Bristol Bus Boycott, the play demonstrates the personal impact of the Civil Rights movement on Bristol’s real communities at that time, through the lives of one black Bristolian family.

Seun Shote who plays Wendell Senior with Bus Boycott pioneer Roy Hackett (Photo by Harry Plowden)

Seun Shote who plays Wendell Senior with Bus Boycott pioneer Roy Hackett (Photo by Harry Plowden)

Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett, Bristol’s original Bus Boycott campaigners, now in their 90s, attended last night’s performance as guests of honour, staying until the small hours to talk to the cast and share their extraordinary experiences with them.

Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director Tom Morris today said,

“Chino’s beautiful play and this collaboration with Dawn Walton’s brilliant Eclipse Theatre Company is set firmly in the context of Bristol’s 2018 Year of Change. Prompted by Ujima Radio’s Roger Griffith, we determined that our newly reopened theatre would renew its welcome to every community in the city, and celebrate the stories which matter most to the people who have made our city what it is. The story of the Bristol Bus Boycott and the community of St Pauls who fought to combat employment prejudice in the city is one of those stories which is both inspiring in relation to what the city might achieve in the future, and chastening in relation to the injustices which remain unaddressed.

The night was made all the more special by the fact that Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett, the original architects of the Bus Boycott, together with Barbara Dettering, who founded the St Pauls Carnival in its wake, were able to attend, closing an extraordinary circle of witness and celebration of their heroic achievements.”

In 1961, Bristol Evening Post exposed a ‘colour bar’ by the Bristol Omnibus company, preventing non-white people from working as bus drivers in Bristol. The prejudice was tried and tested in 1963, when Paul Stephenson, spokesman for the West Indian Development Council, sent his black student Guy Bailey to interview for a job as a bus driver. After a successful phone interview, Bailey proceeded to visit the Omnibus company, where he was promptly turned away and refused the job.

The West Indian Development Council’s founding member Roy Hackett and Paul Stephenson announced the Bristol Bus Boycott in April 1963, urging Bristol’s black communities to avoid taking the bus until the colour bar was lifted. A month later, Bristol University students held a protest march in support of the boycott. The stand-off finally came to an end in August 1963, when the Omnibus company announced that there would be no more discrimination in employing bus crews. Two years later, the British Government passed the first Race Relations Act of 1965, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race in public places. To celebrate the unity that helped end the colour bar on Bristol’s buses, Bristolian activist and social worker Barbara Dettering put on the first St Pauls Carnival in 1968, an annual African Caribbean carnival now held every July in Bristol.

The Bristol Bus Boycott is now seen to be a pivotal moment in Black Civil Rights history, spearheading positive change across the UK.

Princess & The Hustler opened on Sat 9 Feb and will run at Bristol Old Vic until Sat 23 Feb, before heading on a UK-wide tour.

Bristol Old Vic launches virtual 3D tour of its new front of house spaces

Bristol Old Vic
Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic has released a 3D walkthrough of its newly refurbished front of house space following the recent completion of its multi-million-pound redevelopment, which opened to the public in September 2018. The 3D tour includes the new 1766 Bar & Kitchen and provides glimpses of the theatre’s Heritage Lottery-funded art installations and exhibitions. Viewers are also able to step inside the historic Georgian auditorium and explore the space from all angles.

The 3D virtual tour is an extension of Bristol Old Vic’s welcome to everyone, giving those with access requirements, or from further afield, an opportunity to step inside the historic building without physically being there. Using state-of-the-art technology, Bristol Old Vic is committed to using every possible opportunity to make the trip to the theatre as easy as possible.

Liam Wiseman, Heritage Engagement Manager said, “The 3D photography capture work we did at Bristol Old Vic has allowed us to enhance our visitor offer, giving everyone the chance to view and explore the entire building and familiarise themselves with it before visiting. Audiences can view our accessibility features and can even find their seat before a show. It has also allowed us to open our historic site to a wider audience that anyone can access wherever they are. With the software viewable in Virtual Reality as well, you can literally go on a virtual tour of the theatre, so give it a go!”

The walkthrough was created in conjunction with 3D Visual, a Bristol-based 3D marketing service provider, specialising in 360° photography and property mapping.

Business owner Rob Thomas said, “3D Virtual Tours are not only socially inclusive, they provide audiences with a taster of what they can expect. Mapping Bristol Old Vic means documenting history and providing everyone with the opportunity to view a cultural masterpiece from anywhere in the world.”

The virtual tour allows audiences to scope out the building ahead of their visit, familiarise themselves with the theatre’s access facilities and examine various fields of view in the auditorium. The walkthrough encompasses all four floors of the theatre, from the Theatre Pit to the Gallery and can be viewed in 3D, in ‘Dollhouse’ mode or as a Floor Plan. It can be accessed on any device, including desktop computer, tablet, iPad or mobile phone. For a more immersive experience, visitors can also access the walkthrough with a Virtual Reality headset.

The walkthrough can be accessed on Bristol Old Vic’s ‘Your Visit’ page and will remain there as a permanent part of the theatre’s mission to become as inclusive as possible.

The Legend and the Legacy: Olivier Award-winning play The Mountaintop comes to Bristol

Gbolahan Obisesan
Gbolahan Obisesan

Gbolahan Obisesan

Bristol Old Vic presents The Mountaintop as part of its continued commitment to re-examining Bristol’s relationship with the past, highlighted through the theatre’s ongoing Year of Change.

Following a sell-out run at the Young Vic theatre in 2016, Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning play The Mountaintop has embarked on a 7–venue UK tour, with Bristol Old Vic’s new Weston Studio marking its penultimate stop from 21–24 Nov. The production received rave reviews and was most recently commended for being a “skilled examination of the issues of racism that still linger in today’s world; a reminder of the beliefs that spurred on the fight, and the work that must carry on.” (Broadway World, ★★★★).

Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, premièred at Theatre503 in 2009, then transferred to the West End in 2010 and won the Olivier Award for Best New Play. Following its West End run, the play opened on Broadway in October 2011 to critical acclaim.

This Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Reading Rep and Desara Bosnja co-production is directed by JMK Award 2016 Winner Roy Alexander Weiseand offers an intimate look into the hours before Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

After delivering his famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, Dr King goes to Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel to rest, before another long day of campaigning. With a storm raging outside, a maid, Camae, arrives to deliver his cup of coffee and his world is spun on its axis.

The Mountaintop chips away at the myth of the great man to expose his fears about his family, his country and the ever-looming threat of violent death. Set during the height of America’s Civil Rights Movement, Katori Hall’s sharp and powerful play confronts his legend and his legacy. Are we really free or do we live in a world of false liberation?

Gbolahan Obisesan played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Young Vic’s original 2016 production and is now reviving the role on tour. As an actor, his theatre credits also include The Bird Woman Of Lewisham (Arcola Theatre), The Inspectors Call (Etcetera Theatre), Concrete Jungle, Piano Forte (Courtyard Theatre), Holyland (Edinburgh/Pleasance/Lyric Hammersmith), The Arbitrary Adventures Of An Accidental Terrorist (Lyric Hammersmith), A Midsummer Night’s DreamOedipus The King and A Hip-Hop Musical (Bloomsbury Theatre). Television credits include Forty-something; Watch over Me!; and short film credits include The Good Sonand Beyond the Blade. Obisesan is also a playwright and director.

Rochelle Rose plays Camae. Her theatre credits include Cinderella (Oxford Playhouse), The Winter’s Tale (The Orange Tree Theatre), Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (The Jack Studio Theatre), One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (Eclipse Theatre/Kiln Theatre) and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Television credits include Lawful Killing (BBC One); Hood Documentary (BBC Three/Fudge Park Productions) and short films include Pipe Up (Company of Angels) and Ghosts (Identity Filmworks).

Katori Hall is an Olivier Award-winning playwright. Her other work includes Tina Turner the Musical, the award-wining Hurt VillageHoodoo LoveRemembrance, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning and Pussy Valley, which is being adapted into a TV series for US network STARZ.

Roy Alexander Weise is the 19th annual winner of the James Menzies-Kitchin Award and an Associate Director at Harts Theatre Company. His theatre credits include Nine Night (National Theatre & West End transfer), Jekyll and Hyde (National Youth Theatre), Dead Don’t Floss (National Theatre), The Ugly One (Park Theatre), The Dark (Ovalhouse), Primetime(Royal Court Theatre), Stone Face (Finborough Theatre) and Br’er Cotton(Theatre503).

★★★★★ City A.M. ★★★★★ Auditorium Mag
★★★★ The Times ★★★★ Evening Standard ★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★ What’s On Stage ★★★★ The Stage ★★★★ Time Out

Listings information:
The Mountaintop
The Weston Studio
Wed 21 Nov – Sat 24 Nov
3pm, 8pm
From £18
Ages 14+

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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.

Interview Mayfest – MAYK – Director Kate Yedigaroff: “Do we doggedly keep on trying to deliver although we would have had to compromise extremely on quality scope, breadth and impact?”

Kate Yedigaroff

Mayfest is Bristol’s unique festival of contemporary theatre, dedicated to presenting a broad range of unusual, playful and ambitious work from leading theatre makers from Bristol, the UK and beyond

Kate Yedigaroff is co-director of Mayfest.
We are at the Watershed in Bristol – total brilliant cinema & digital creativity hub–  by the docks. Amazing.

Here is what we discussed…

Kate Yedigaroff

Kate Yedigaroff

Hi Kate, first thing is first: can we talk about THAT The Stage headline and the whole Mayfest Festival going bi-annual thing. 
We have made the decision to pause and we made it for lots of reasons. Of course, the thing that was picked up was that part of that reason was to do with the current funding landscape. We decided to pause because although we are an NPO this is only a part of the picture and we had had a bad year in terms of additional fundraising amongst other things. These decisions are hard – do we doggedly keep on trying to deliver although we would have had to compromise extremely on quality scope, breadth and impact?  Or do we take a breath and give time and space to strategic thinking and creating a really good festival for 2018 and beyond.  We’ve been going year on year for some years and there is a kind of breathlessness to that – it was getting to a point where we were being responsive all the time, rather than looking at where we actually are, contexts are shifting, the world is changing etc etc. Also our other producing work is growing and growing.

Would it be accurate to say that Mayfest may have become a of victim of its own success? 
It feels entirely appropriate that this festival goes bi-annual. Our intention is that this festival spreads right out across Bristol. So, another reason for delivering every other year is to build relationships that are going to take time, planting seeds for really exciting collaborations to grow and extending our national and international relationships too.

Talk to me about Bristol. I love Bristol. Do you? 
Bristol is an extraordinary place and I’ve found it impossible to leave. There is an ever shifting gang of artists making work, and a strong core. Strong networks and great audiences. Mayfest started at BOV in 2003 and at that point it was a programme of work in the studio that was deliberately being the alternative offer to a classical main house programme. It very quickly became clear that there was a huge community of artists and audiences that wanted to engage with it.

It seems like there is a lot of joined up thinking and collaborative team spirit, no?
There is a generosity here, and people’s peripheral vision is quite good but there is a lack of resource and at the moment there is not a lot of space to actually do stuff in. It’s tough for mid-career artists who are beginning to want and need to make work of scale and there isn’t enough hard cash and real opportunity to make those things happen.

What are the biggest challenges that you are hearing from the mouths of artists?

Lack of decent commissioning, co-production potential and proper supported development time, the scratch culture reigns supreme. Naturally people are frustrated as it’s getting harder to take risks on work that hasn’t been seen or artists that are ‘unknown’.  But if nobody’s going to take a punt how the hell are we going to move on from here.

You are co-director of Mayfest alongside Matthew Austin. What’s that relationship like? 
Matthew and I are very good friends and I suppose the ethos of the company is built on that – we are very different creatures but our tastes are mostly similar and we share a leaning to leftfield with a desire to not exclude. We are different spirits and we have different backgrounds. At work we pretty much share responsibility for everything but crudely speaking I’m more likely to be in a rehearsal room or having long meetings with artists about new ideas and he’ll be gathering speed with the important practical stuff that makes the work happen. It isn’t possible to think of doing this without him. We seem to make sense.

So, no festival this year. What have you got coming up?

Part of not doing a festival this year is a load of other projects that we are producing – in May we are premiering a show with a company called Firebird theatre. They are a company of disabled actors and they are making an autobiographical show that amongst other things celebrates 25 years of them making theatre. There are also the beginnings of a really exciting project with Stillhouse and LIFT. New works in development with Sleepdogs, The British Paraorchestra, Jo Bannon. And we are developing a programme of presented work outside Mayfest –  new ways of staying in touch with our audiences and experimenting with new things.

What is the Fringe culture like in Bristol?
The Wardrobe Theatre is a great project that’s becoming a big deal quite quickly. A lovely space with a really lively theatre. Brunswick Court, Residence and Interval – groups of independent artists who are co-working and experimenting with new ways of peer to peer support etc.

Who has been your mentor? Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
I feel quite lucky to have been well supported in Bristol – Dick Penny – CEO of Watershed – really backed me when I needed it –Tom Morris and Emma Stenning at the Old Vic too.

As we are all running to stand still and spinning plates, do you ever stop and take time to think about your own professional development?
I am more and more interested in finding new ways of creating unusual projects with greater and deeper public engagement. I’d like more time to explore this.  I find it quite easy to have a crisis of meaning – is this all enough?  There are so many people really being fucked over.  What can we do? Let’s not sit in an echo chamber etc etc. I wonder if there will become a way that my theatre producing can connect more overtly to these questions.
And I want to make sure that I keep trying to be a good mum. And that is constant learning. I have a son. I want to help him to be a happy man. Able to be vulnerable and silly and to find power in that too.

Interview Michal Keyamo on Junkyard: ‘It’s about the forgotten youth that society deems unreachable.’

The Jerwood Assistant Directors Programme is a development opportunity for six artistic directors per year from the Genesis Network. It offers an extended placement at Young Vic in the form of a paid direction role on a major Young Vic production. Michal Keyamo is one of six 2016/17 Directors. Wonderful.

Junk playgrounds used to have vast drops, dangerous rope swings and were always burning. Junkyard is a musical about these anarchic locations and the young people who created them.

Featuring a score by Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love, Wolf Hall, Jerusalem), this brilliantly honest and witty new musical from BAFTA Award-winning writer Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, This is England ‘90) and Evening Standard Award-winning director Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall, People, Places and Things, This House) is a coming-of-age story about friendship and standing up for what matters, apparently.

So, I had a lovely chat with Junkyard’s Assistant Director: Michal Keyamo.

Here is how our chat went.

Michal Keyamo

Michal Keyamo

Michal! How would you describe your perspective on life?
That’s a tough question if i’m honest, I’m still trying to figure it out! I guess where I’m at now I would say that life is what you make it. It can be the most exciting, challenging, stretching experience or it can be a dull, doubtful chore. I think that if life throws tomatoes, lemons, glitter! at you, it’s up to you to make tomato soup, lemonade and a glittered crown, or not. I’m the boss of my own life.

Junkyard kicks off  at Bristol Old Vic very soon. How are you feeling — excited, sick, something else?
These past few weeks have flown by I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath properly but you’re right Junkyard will be kicking off soon. Right now I’d say I’m quite calm but I know my heart will be beating hard before the first preview.

You were on the Jerwood Assistant Directors Programme on Blue/Orange. How beneficial was that scheme for you as an emerging Director?
I can’t sing the Young Vics praises enough. Such a terrific theatre who put a lot of hard work into emerging directors and also people who have an interest in directing but aren’t sure where to start. I actually started with a two – week introduction to directing course to get a flavour of what the directing lark in a professional setting was all about, although I had done small bits before and freestyled everything. I then went on to do the Boris Karloff trainee assistant director programme which was an opportunity to observe a full rehearsal process, attend production and creative meetings and shadow the assistant director. I observed Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin on their production of Macbeth and it was so useful and gave me the confidence to apply for the Jerwood assistant directors programme. It‘s such a great programme. As well as assisting on Blue/Orange, I also directed a short piece written by Roy Williams in the Clare with four other Jerwood assistant directors, went on a weekend trip to Berlin to experience theatre over there and meet with people in various theatres, I will also lead two peer led workshops and spend two weeks at the Young Vic to see how the building is run. It’s such a fantastic programme being able to work professionally with the support and guidance of the Young Vic.

Junkyard Company at the Vench

Junkyard Company at the Vench © Jon Craig

Can you describe Junkyard for people who haven’t heard it?
It’s a story about a building of a community of young people through the building of a playground. It’s about inclusion and acceptance. It’s about the forgotten youth that society deems unreachable and too problematic to deal with and giving them a chance to be seen and celebrated. It also gives a platform to the Adventure Playground Movement which is struggling right now and needs support and a lot of love..There’s also lots of music and humour, who doesn’t like a joke and a singsong?

What was the last play you saw?
The last play I saw was Wishlist at the Royal Court directed by Matthew Xia who also directed Blue/Orange. Had to go and support!

What are the worst parts of being an assistant director?
We’re getting saucy now! Lol. Um, I’d say not having full creative control can sometimes be hard when I have a completely different idea for a moment/scene that doesn’t match up to the director’s vision. I just want to say “do it like this!” but I can’t. I’m there to mould my ideas to support the director’s goals for the piece – I think that this is an essential part of the role which does take a lot of practice. I think another part that, isn’t necessarily bad but can be exhausting, is trying to establish yourself in the room as the Assistant Director. We all want to be respected in the workplace and to feel like an essential part of the team so sometimes I put pressure on myself to deliver amazing ideas and have all the answers which I don’t always have.

Junkyard - Rehearsal

Junkyard – Rehearsal © Manuel Harlan

What are the best parts of being an assistant director?
On a professional level, successfully building a good working relationship with the director and getting into a good flow where ideas are bouncing, and you feel that the trust is growing more and more – that’s amazing. Also, seeing a director happy and confident with their work and knowing that I’ve contributed to that is very satisfying. On a personal level, I’d say learning new skills and absorbing different ways of approaching a text, communicating with actors, how to inject positive energy into a rehearsal room – I get all this for free. I definitely see the role as an apprenticeship of sorts and I’ve taken so much into my own practice as a director.

Being completely honest, has there been any point in the last two years establishing yourself as a director when you’ve thought, “this isn’t working – let’s not do it”?
Absolutely. When I don’t have anything lined up or don’t know what I should be doing next the doubts definitely start creeping in. I’m still searching for the perfect piece to debut my first full length and the more time passes the more I think “Michal, just stop” but maybe that’s where I’m going wrong. Just jump.

If you were to write a Director’s rulebook, what would Rule One be?
Have fun.

Does Jack Thorne make a good cup of tea?
I haven’t sampled unfortunately but if his tea is as good as his writing then we’re onto something…

Is there anything that you’d like to add?
Come to see Junkyard and watch us play! 🙂

More details about Junkyard:

Junkyard is at Bristol Old Vic24 February-18 March; Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 29 March-15 April; The Rose, Kingston, 19-30 April

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Interview with Tom Morris, Bristol Old Vic: “Part of what we do is making stories about people that audiences can be entertained and inspired by and there is a market place for that.” 

Tom Morris

Tom Morris © Mark Douet

After a triumphant run and high praise from audiences and critics, the director has had the last laugh with The Grinning Man’s success.
The Grinning Man was a huge risk for Bristol Old Vic, currently celebrating its 250th anniversary year. The show was warmly received and is surely destined for another life. Who’d have thought that a musical based on the Victor Hugo novel and cult silent movie The Man Who Laughs could be so moving, thrilling and powerful?
If regional theatre wants to safeguard its future it can’t play safe. It’s risk-taking that keeps theatre alive. Despite funding cuts and global uncertainty we are living through a rich time for theatrical experiment – as witnessed at Bristol Old Vic.
Tom Morris is Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic and has been Associate Director of the National Theatre since 2004. Previous productions at Bristol Old Vic include: King Lear, The Crucible, Swallows and Amazons, Juliet and Her Romeo, and Messiah (Bristol Proms, 2012). FYI: Tom was also co-director of War Horse, widely considered to be the most successful theatre production of all time.
The Grinning Man has just finished a successful run, I had a chat with Tom last week about that, his desire to stay relevant in a shifting theatre landscape, and his love for Bristol as a cultural powerhouse.

Hi Tom! The Grinning Man is *very* good. How did you celebrate?
We ended up in Renatos singing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar eating food and drinking together. It was brilliant.

What are your top tips for an aspiring director?
Well, move to Bristol. Not because you are going to get a great job precisely, but because there is a creative community and audience in this city that can sustain the framework. There is also a developing Fringe in Bristol. You learn by doing and you have to want it passionately. I suppose I would also say: get on with it. Trying to find the right environment to flourish is half the battle won.

Tom Morris - The Grinning Man Rehearsals 

Tom Morris – The Grinning Man Rehearsals

The Grinning Man
This year is our 250th Birthday and to celebrate this unique milestone we have staged a year-round programme of productions from each of the four centuries the theatre has been in operation. Bristol Old Vic has always looked forward. I suppose the reason for staging The Grinning Man in the autumn, of this special season, is that the product is unusual and pushes boundaries. The Grinning Man is a play with songs about the spirit of Bristol. Part of what we do is making stories about people that audiences can be entertained and inspired by and there is a market place for that.

People are scared of new musicals, sometimes aren’t they?
With The Grinning Man, I suppose the story and model is complicated. Finding a version of the tale that was possible for the audience to engage with, whilst remaining faithful to the novel and exploring form and content was a huge challenge. There was always a danger of us going down a narrative blind alley.
I have to say that there is a lot going on in order to bring a new musical of this size and scale to the stage. It is very expensive to develop and if you don’t get it right or even half right can be a disaster. Having said that, there is a real appetite for new musicals; why that is I don’t know. I guess it is such a powerful kit that you get to play with; tears and laughter. Conventionally, audiences are reluctant to come and see new musicals. What has been particularly strong with this show, in particular, is the word of mouth effect; people have been prepared to overcome the unknown and taken a leap of faith. I hope that they have enjoyed it.

What three things should every new musical have?

  1. Story
  2. Tunes
  3. Passion

Shrinking attention spans aside, did you have to get rid of any bits you love?
God yes! There were whole scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, for better or worse. What’s been so rewarding is that the entire company felt confident enough to suggest changes, say when something wasn’t working and embellish details with their own identities. But when you have a company as talented as ours and an extraordinary creative team as this it’s a very organic process. The show has developed in leaps and bounds.

Bristol has a growing reputation as a creative city. What makes it so exciting?
Well, huge numbers of creative people move to or stay here because it has a justified reputation. It’s still possible to get cheap accommodation and is very active economically. In order to find work there are massive opportunities for this city and region and that requires investment. Manchester and Liverpool have grasped opportunity for investment massively. Looking forward, the hugely exciting prospects are the Heritage Lottery Funding and next phase of our refurbishment– of which we are hugely grateful to Arts Council England, but also huge number of donations and time from individuals and philanthropy. In order for Bristol Old Vic to be a forward thinking producing theatre of scale we need to be more than a business; we need to be a heritage destination and take a massive leap in order to keep telling the story to flourish to the public. We have deliberately realigned to create and produce new work.

Looking ahead what are you most excited about in 2017?
Last week there was a workshop in London of a new play Junkyard by Jack Thorne about the junk playground built in Lockleaze in the 1970’s, it features music by Stephen Warbeck – We’re co-producing this next year with Headlong, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd. I am very excited we are a part of that.

We need risk-takers more than ever, how do you balance risk adventure with number crunching?
You might assume that I am the one with the wildly imaginative and ambitious artistic ideas and Emma is the sensible one. That is not always the case. We have fairly nuanced conversations, with support from our excellent team and board of trustees. You plot a course. Playing safe doesn’t really work, the theatre has only survived so far because of the city’s relationship and love for it. The city has infamously rescued it and essentially it is a quarter of a millennium love affair, which like all love affairs has had its fair shares of ups and downs.