Bristol Old Vic launches jam-packed programme of work, including Bristol Ferment’s Takeover, The HandleBards and Wise Children’s Romantics Anonymous

Bristol Old Vic launches autumn season with jam-packed programme of new work, including Bristol Ferment’s Takeover, The HandleBards and Wise Children’s Romantics Anonymous.

Following the reopening of its bar and café and the launch of ‘Live at Bristol Old Vic’, Bristol Old Vic has shared further plans for its programme, designed to suit the flexible performance spaces within and outside of the theatre’s foyer. The season includes a live broadcast of Bristol Old Vic Associate Company Wise Children’s Romantics AnonymousThe HandleBards and new work by Made In Bristol and Bristol Ferment artists.

Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic and Plush Theatricals today announced that Emma Rice’s critically-acclaimed musical adaptation of Romantics Anonymous will be performed at Bristol Old Vic, and broadcast live, direct to audience’s homes nationally and globally. The show will be available to stream as a ‘digital tour’ between Tue 22 and Sat 26 Sep, following the cancellation of its US tour due to Covid-19, with tickets available here.

Partner theatres from across the world will sell tickets for different nights of the week. Each night will be tailored to audiences in different parts of the world, and there’ll be a sprinkle of local flavour added before each stream begins. Partner theatres include Belgrade Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Bristol Old Vic, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Curve Theatre Leicester, Derby Theatre, Eden Court Highlands, Exeter Northcott, HOME, Lighthouse Poole, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Marlowe Theatre, New Zealand Festival, Norwich Theatre Royal, Oxford Playhouse, Royal & Derngate, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Storyhouse, The Festival Theatre, The Lowry, The Old Vic (where Wise Children are a Company in Residence), Theatr Clwyd, Theatre Royal Bath, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, York Theatre Royal.

The world premiere of Romantics Anonymous was originally produced by Shakespeare’s Globe for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by special arrangement with Radio Mouse Entertainment.

Romantics Anonymous centres on Angélique, a gifted chocolate maker crippled by social anxiety and Jean-René, the boss of a failing chocolate factory. Angélique is so timid, she faints when people look at her; Jean-René so awkward he relies on self-help tapes and is prone to embarrassing sweating. When Angélique takes a job in Jean-René’s struggling factory, a fragile love affair unfolds. Funny, tender and painfully awkward, Romantics Anonymous is a delicious love story about breaking the mould and finding the courage to be happy.
Many of the cast will be reprising their roles with full details to be announced shortly. Following approved sport and film production guidance, the company will each have a coronavirus test before forming a bubble in Bristol. These rigorous measures mean that they will be able to perform the entire show without social distancing.

Artistic Director of Wise Children, Emma Rice today said, “I have devoted my life to the live experience and the collective imagination – things that have proved impossible over the last few months. Whilst nothing will be able to replace the thrill of a night out at the theatre, this live broadcast is going to be as close to that delicious experience as we can possibly make it! Live, fresh, fun and intimate, this will remind us of what it is to share stories, hear music and, if true love has its way, even kiss. Imagine that! We are taking the utmost care to protect all of our valued team and, for one week only, we can all experience a live performance again, get lost in a wonderful love story and remember what it was to be socially intimate!

Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic, Tom Morris added “Theatre has to reinvent itself in order to survive. That’s always true, of course, and one of the great pioneers of theatrical reinvention over the last 20 years has been Emma Rice. And now she’s at it again. A purely live fully streamed full-scale musical for a live audience sitting at home all over the world. It’s so bold it turns your mind into a honeycomb. We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to be hosting the experiment in our beautiful theatre, and there is no company more suited to rekindle the fire of live performance that inspires us all than Wise Children.”
Captioned and audio-described versions of the production will be available.

From Thu 27 – Sat 29 Aug, Bristol Old Vic’s newest cohort of young theatre-makers, Leave the Light Ensemble, the 10th generation of Made In Bristol, will present their debut show Buffering… A show about being apart, but together. The collective began training in September 2019 and have been collaborating online since the beginning of lockdown to bring this show to life.

Made In Bristol member Sophie Grenfell said today, “For Leave the Light Ensemble creating work physically apart but together online has been a rollercoaster ride of online dancing, laughing in the face of adversity and cursing unstable internet connection. It has pushed the limits of how we, a company who love loud and physical ensemble work, can create theatre. At first we resisted, using editing and recording to chase the illusion of togetherness. But as time passed, the same uncertainty and distance that has, at times, frustrated us to tears, has become an integral part of our process. We have learnt to flip it on its head, embrace the circumstances and examine why it is that, in times as testing as these, the most simple moments of human connection are our most powerful tools of resilience.”

On Sat 5 and Sun 6 Sep, the critically acclaimed HandleBards will land on King Street to perform their unhinged and bonkers, laugh-out-loud version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The pedalling troupe, who have been cooped up together during lockdown, will use their irreverent, charming and hilarious style to bring you a brand-new outdoor production with a socially-distanced twist. With music, mayhem and more costume changes than you can shake a spear at, these Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award winners are ready to show you the classic tale of two young lovers like you’ve never seen it before.

Finally, from Wed 9 – Sun 13 Sep, Bristol Old Vic’s artist development strand Bristol Ferment will take over the ‘Live at Bristol Old Vic’ programme to present the sharings resulting from its recent call-out “The View From Here”: a responsive seed commission asking artists and companies to respond to what can be made now and how we might come together with audiences in this new world. Bristol Ferment is thrilled to announce the five artists and companies that will be sharing their works-in-progress as part of this reimagined Ferment Takeover over the course of one week:

    • Black Women Let Loose
    • Holly Beasley-Garrigan, Dee Hassan & Ivy Corbin
    • Pete Yelding & Sura Susso
    • Pravanya Pillay
    • Saikat Ahamed

Ferment Producer Ben Atterbury said today, “We’re delighted to announce the artists and companies who we are working with to innovate new forms of theatre-making. This time has been incredibly challenging for our independent and freelance community and we’re not through it yet, but we hope through these seed commissions to gesture towards a potential direction of travel. We know our programme of work-in-progress will show audiences the green shoots of the brilliant creativity and spirit within the South West’s incredible creative community and the vitality of continuing to provide opportunity for them to make their work and think about what might come next.”

The announcement follows the recent launch of ‘Live at Bristol Old Vic’, a series of small-scale performances located within the theatre’s foyer. The nearly sold-out first weekend (20 – 22 Aug) features Bristolian artists Vanessa Kisuule, Mark Olver, Patrycja Kujawska and James Gow.

Listings Information


Romantics Anonymous: Digital Tour

Tue 22 – Sat 26 Sep

UK: 7.30pm

USA: 9pm BST / 1pm PST / 4pm EST


From £15

Made In Bristol presents


Thu 27 – Sat 29 Aug


Bar and Café at Bristol Old Vic

£10 (Table of 2), £20 (Table of 4), £30 (Table of 6)


The HandleBards present

Romeo and Juliet

Sat 5 – Sun 6 Sep

2pm, 7pm (Sat)

Garden Stage at Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Ferment presents

The View From Here Takeover

Wed 9 – Sun 13 Sep


Bar and Café at Bristol Old Vic