Flinty Red at the Bristol Old Vic

On a Tuesday morning, before swimming, my little girl and I went for breakfast at the Bristol Old Vic. We ate at Flinty Red on the first floor. The divine restaurant from Cotham* Hill has in the three years since it opened up earned a bib gourmand and joined forces with the oldest theatre in town.


Some doubts were raised by the clinical looking first floor with its blue office building floor and the business-meeting appeal of the furniture. A shame of a setting for the most perfect food and coffee. I mean just that particular section because the newly renovated Old Vic is surely lovely in all other ways.

The soya latte was excellent. I mention it here first but I drank it there last as it is the one beverage in Bristol that is sure to disappoint. The homemade granola was delicately flavoured and crisp hazelnuts were a tasty accompaniment to my daughter’s favourite food, bananas (for an additional 30p). Our pastry was fresh and tasty and sweet and covered with a light apricot glaze and icing.

We then picked up our things and went off to swimming. A quick and lovely breakfast as a treat to start our day. Not open early enough for the pre-work crowd (yet?) but just right for us.

Flinty Red is open from 9am for breakfast and then continues for the rest of the day to provide food for lunch and dinner as well. It is one of the most wonderful restaurants in Bristol but until they renovate the restaurant area it is not a setting for special memories so hold off on the wedding proposals until you’re in the theatre.




*rhymes with Gotham

Wild Oats, Bristol Old Vic

After a year of redevelopment which saw last summer’s Treasure Island staged on the cobbles of King Street, the Bristol Old Vic is not only reopening but is presenting Wild Oats in its beautiful new theatre.

They promise an exquisite modern auditorium, with comfortable seats, improved sightlines, refurbished boxes and flexible thrust stage (!) for more intimacy and atmosphere.

The first show in this new and exciting Old Vic is Wild Oats. Here is the description.

Jack Rover is an actor.

Committed, quick-witted and capable of slipping into a new identity with the merest arc of an eyebrow. The trouble is, there’s one character he hasn’t quite mastered. His own.

John O’Keeffe’s careering caper of cross purposes, mistaken identity and confusion is a classic romp of a comedy, directed by the hugely exciting young director, Mark Rosenblatt (National Theatre), making his Bristol Old Vic debut.

The charismatic, Shakespeare-spouting Rover lurches between places and people, falling in love, pulling pranks and tumbling over relations he never knew he had.

Runs from September 4 to October 20.

Ferment at Bristol Old Vic

With swearing, some sexual content and adult themes, Bristol Ferment returns to the Old Vic with its two-week long showcase and producer Emma Bettridge’s first public foray into this twice-yearly festival.

Bristol Ferment is a strange creature which works, often very informally, with the wide-ranging community of artists in Bristol and across the region. Some of the work is just the bare bones of new ideas and other pieces are almost ready to be called “finished”.

“Ferment Fortnight gives people a chance to see work as it emerges and to tell us what they think of the work we’re presenting” says Emma Bettridge so this is a rather wonderful opportunity for the audience.

Highlights from the two weeks include: The Wasp, the first twenty minutes of a play by London’s writer of the moment, Bath based Morgan Lloyd MalcolmAblutions, a new show from award-winning FellSwoop Theatre, based on the first novel from US writer Patrick deWitt (writer of “The Sisters Brothers”) and Ours was the Fen Country, a piece of dance-theatre from Dan Canham whose last Ferment show 30 Cecil Street toured internationally to huge acclaim.

This year there is a designated Ferment bar, The Cellar Bar which promises to be an underground saloon of all things Fermentified, and on the first Saturday, Coopers’ Gallery will be transformed into a mini farmers market.

If you need even more encouragement to visit Ferment, there is a price offer of five shows for the price of four. Oh and make Ablutions, 19 July, one of your five – it’s the one that includes the sex and swearing.

Bristol Old Vic
Wed 18 -Sat 28 July.
Times vary
0117 987 7877


Twitter: @bristolferment, &



Mayfest is a little mind boggling and a lot amazing. A range of shows performed in various formats which will probably, nay undoubtedly, surprise over 10 days.

There is Magna Mysteria, an interactive series of magical events, which will happen across the city and over time, culminating in a showdown on the final day at a location near the train station.

I couldn’t tell you what the Blind Tiger is about: “Welcome to our lair. Take a seat, order a drink and see what happens.” Pay what you can if you want to go and are over 14.

For Motor Vehicle Sundown, take a seat in the last motor vehicle left on earth. This is an audio piece for two in a parked car in the middle of a busy city. £5 at the Trenchard Street Car Park.

Or invite people to your house and let the Avon lady come calling. If only I had nine friends. The idea of this one leaves me tingling. £120 for up to 10 people to join the Avon Lady in your own living room for a party with a twist. Avoncalling, theotherwayworks.co.uk.

This has been just a taste of what is available. There is plenty more.

Mayfest runs from 17 – 27 May. Mayfestbristol.co.uk, like @mayfestbristol on Facebook or follow @mayfestbristol on Twitter.

The Space, digital art for the public

The Bristol Old Vic will be involved in one of the largest digital arts programmes in the UK as part of The Space which is commissioned by the Arts Council of England and helped by the BBC. This is a project that will create hundreds of hours of original arts material between May and October 2012.

The BBC is contributing to the partnership by developing the technological solutions and providing ongoing support through mentoring, production, training and skills development.

According to the announcement made by the Arts Council, Tom Morris, Director of War Horse and Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic, will present a unique and interactive way of replicating the emotional experience of watching live performance using the pioneering techniques developed by the BBC Natural History Unit.

As the Bristol Old Vic told us “For some time now, our Artistic Director, Tom Morris, has been interested in developing groundbreaking ways in which to present live theatre onto the digital platform and, in doing so, replicate the atmosphere and experience of being an audience member sitting in the auditorium.”

“Techniques developed in natural history programming and the coverage of certain sports, will be combined with elements such as ‘red button’ technology, allowing viewers the choice of determining their own unique perspective.”

“Without funding from The Space, Bristol Old Vic would have found it difficult to explore innovative ways in which to share its work with such a diverse, potentially global, audience.”

53 successful applicants were announced yesterday out of 750 who applied. A couple of other successful commissions include the following:

Faber & Faber – 60 Years in 60 Poems a digital journey that invites the nation to discover the past from the BBC and Arts Council archives through the prism of 60 new works from major poets in poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s Jubilee Lines anthology.

London Review of Books – in Re-imagining the Literary Essay for the Digital Age the London Review of Books will work with a leading writer and an experienced digital developer to create a new kind of multi-layered literary experience.

The full list is available from the Arts Council’s site. They make up a set of exciting events that will happen in the next few months.


Mayday Mayday, review

A chance to see Tristan Sturrock up close, and telling his own tale, is a bit like being given the chance to be in the same room as Richard Gere just before he did Officer and a Gentleman. Or maybe George Clooney just after the first series of ER.

Sturrock is a leading man, who had he been in Hollywood, would have his picture on billboards within months. His presence is subtle yet vibrant and when he is presenting the one man show he wrote, he is so many characters that it’s hard to remember it is just him out there. But it is just him and his story.

On Mayday in Padstow, Cornwall, among the celebrations and the music, Sturrock falls off a wall and breaks his neck. What follows is a production that explores what happens to the man that landed on his head between a wall and a garage.

He tells us all about it with his acting. A twist of a hand that brings our character to a state of drunkenness, a glance that reminds us that the way home is up the ziggy zaggy stairs, a curtain that becomes the entry to the living room and the bedroom, a spotlight that becomes a bathtub.

The props are minimal but it seems that the creativity of our only character is infinite and all-embracing in order for us to understand exactly what happened.

Mayday Mayday has been developed through Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment programme where it was known as Frankenspine. The result is an emotional journey that is fascinating and gripping in equal measures. Sturrock falls down on stage to show us what happened but moments later he is up again, a feat, that in real life, his wife and director, Katy Carmichael, thought would never happen.

Characters he encounters come to life for moments at a time and then pass away. We meet the surgeon and the driver of the ambulance. We are there when he is learning to walk again. Most importantly we meet the narrator who looks back on it all and we learn what he learns, that sometimes just being heard is important and that there is always something that will make us laugh. This isn’t a somber production but it is heartfelt and will make you think. May inspire you a little, as well.

Mayday Mayday runs until February 4 at the Bristol Old Vic

A couple of reviews, Mr Stink & Treasure Island

Over the last week or so I reviewed two productions, Mr Stink at the Hippodrome and Treasure Island on King Street at the Old Vic.

Mr Stink

“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…” starts the award-winning second novel by David Walliams, better known for his acting alongside Matt Lucas in Little Britain.

Read the rest on Bristol247.

Treasure Island

The first drops of rain fell just as the cast said their final farewells and once more, the gamble, of holding an open air production in the middle of an English summer, paid off.

Director Sally Cookson’s audacious idea to perform the most Bristolian of plays, Treasure Island, outside, and facing the Llandoger Trow, where Robert Louis Stevenson purportedly got the idea for the play, was inspired.

The rest can be found on Bristol Culture.

Swallows and Amazons, Bristol Old Vic

In his second production for the Old Vic, artistic director, Tom Morris comes into his own.

Juliet and Her Romeo sported a well executed and seamless production in terms of scenery but lacked the energy and vivacity of youth, among other things. Swallows and Amazons on the other hand spreads its energy through every means available. The adaptation was sparkling, the actors were effervescent, the scenery was fluid and effective while the supporting cast were flexible enough to mirror a child’s imagination.

I was about to write that the youth of the actors was probably what helped with the energetic production and then remembered that they actually weren’t all that young. The almost eight year old character Roger, played by Stewart Wright, sported a beard and a definite post-30s appearance but I had to think carefully to remember that. I barely noticed the facial hair until my companion pointed out.

Stuart McLoughlin, playing the eldest brother John, managed to lower his age and shone while still conveying a host of conflicting emotions. The responsibility for his younger siblings, his image in his father’s eye, his own enthusiasm at the adventure and the burgeoning self-esteem of a youngster. His beautiful voice carried off the determination in Neil Hannon’s musical achievement with an effortless performance.

Swallows and Amazons uses every means at its disposal to present a coherent production. Its purpose is to bring to life a story that is mostly created in the children’s imaginations. The clever direction kept me gazing wide-eyed from one corner of the stage to the other, and often behind me and to the side, as the cast mingled with us in a blend of story and reality, literally and metaphorically. I often missed the switch between soprano and tenor saxophone on one side of the stage while on the other the mother would blend into the orchestra with a violin in hand, while Mr Jackson would appear with a guitar and sometimes at the piano. The amazons would often interweave with the supporting actors by donning the blue overcoats that relegated them to a non-event.

Tom Morris achieved a magical outcome in this production which is as fluid as a dream and as energetic as a child’s summer holiday.

Swallows and Amazons is playing until 15 January at the Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol, BS1 4ED. 0117 987 7877. http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk/

A Good Read, from the Bristol Old Vic

After three decades of being recorded at BBC Bristol, the Radio4 show A Good Read, was moved to the Bristol Old Vic for a special edition in front of a live audience. Actually there were two programs recorded within the hour and a half. The first is broadcast tomorrow, 23 November, with host Sue MacGregor and guests Baroness Warnock and actor John Telfer talking about their favourite paperbacks.

We practised our applause. Wild but not out of control, as recommended.

Baroness Mary Warnock is an academic and JohnTelfer plays the Reverend Alan Franks in The Archers. *cue a gasp from the audience*

John Telfer is no stranger to Bristol Theatre, he studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has appeared in more than 35 plays with the Bristol Old Vic Company.

Baroness Warnock’s choice of book was Philip Pulman’s – The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths) about Jesus and his twin brother.

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ throws fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the reader questions that will continue to resonate long after the final page is turned. For, above all, this book is about how stories become stories.

John Telfer’s book was a combination of journalism and crime, If it Bleeds by Duncan Campbell a senior correspondent with the Guardian.

Britain’s best known gangster, Charlie Hook, wants to tell his life story and chooses crime reporter Laurie Lane as his reluctant ghost. But the next day Hook is dead, his blood and hair on the walls of his north London mansion. Who has killed the last of the London Godfathers? Could it be a Russian businessman with a love of Scottish poetry and something dodgy in his Hampstead garden?

Sue McGregor’s choice was Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder.

A Good Read is on Radio 4 at 16:30, 23 November 2010.

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