Theatre / Bristol

Preview: The 24 Hour Plays, Bristol Old Vic

By joe spurgeon, Wednesday Apr 19, 2017

Joe Spurgeon straps in for the adrenaline-charged wild ride that is The 24 Hour Plays: Bristol.

Making theatre can be a costly, time consuming, emotionally and intellectually draining process. It often involves a lot of people. And when that precious moment of putting a play in front of an audience arrives, what you see onstage is the result of weeks and weeks – often months, in fact – of meticulous preparation and refinement.

The writer has pored over his ‘plot pyramid’, or spent long hours honing each of her characters’ backstories and life obstacles. The director has then held several meetings, embarked on field research (or ordered his assistant to) and mooted a creative concept with a sound designer, a lighting designer, a musician or two, a set designer, maybe even the odd producer or production manager. The whole thing has been shaped, sculpted and chiselled as the theatre-making machine moves slowly, inexorably, forward. Decisions are often made by committee and compromise. And we haven’t even got to the rehearsal room yet.

The 24 Hour Plays model body-swerves all that nonsense.

In just 1,440 minutes, six freshly-toasted theatrical mind-bombs are written, scored, designed, rehearsed and performed in front of a full house. It’s an extraordinary experience for both performer, artist and audience. It’s no wonder the format has become a worldwide hit since its first run-out in New York back in 1995.

They’ve been hugely popular at theatres up and down the UK, most notably at the Old Vic in London during Kevin Spacey’s tenure where he called them “a quite brilliant, exhilarating experience”, claiming they reminded him “why I fell in love with theatre in the first place”.

The Bristol edition at Bristol Old Vic reads like a who’s who of an extraordinarily fertile local scene, a Bristol All-stars, if you will. Alongside the cream of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, actors like Stewart Wright (Swallows and Amazons) and Lucy Tuck (Sleeping Beauty) join Helen Monks (Taboo, The Last Kingdom), John Telfer (Skins, Holby City, Bergerac), Felicity Finch (The Archers) and Kim Durham (Inspector Morse, EastEnders, The Archers). Together, they’ll perform plays written by the likes of Sharon Clark, Miriam Battye, Bea Roberts and Sam Bailey; with directors Nik Partridge, Jesse Jones, Nir Paldi, Jenny Stephens, Miranda Cromwell and the 2017 Made in Bristol company representing the full programme of the hosts, Bristol Old Vic’s, activity.

Production for Bristol Old Vic’s 250th anniversary

As Bristol Old Vic’s chief executive, Emma Stenning, says: “I hope you might like to join us on Sunday, April 23, as we present the results of – quite literally – 24 hours of intensive theatre-making at Bristol Old Vic.

“The writers will write through the night, actors, musicians and directors will arrive at the crack of dawn, production staff will deliver the fastest ever turnaround of technical and dress rehearsals throughout the afternoon, and at 8pm, you’ll have a chance to see the most contemporary theatre that the city has to offer.

The 24 Hour Plays have become an institution. I’ve been involved in four or five of them over the past 15 years and they are, without fail, the most frenetically energised theatre-making that I have experienced. Their success relies on ingenuity, imagination and the sheer guts of the artists involved, along with the rapid problem solving power of the producers and stage managers who hold the whole thing together. It’s edge of your seat stuff, and is tremendous fun.”

The 24 Hour Plays: Bristol is a fundraiser for the Peter O’Toole Prize which supports young actors at the start of their careers.

The 24 Hour Plays: Bristol is at Bristol Old Vic on Sunday, April 23, at 8pm. For tickets, visit the website or call 0117 987 7877.


Read more: Review: La Strada, Bristol Old Vic


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