I recently went to London for a few days with my better half, James.
I wouldn’t say that we’re natural London people; the hectic element of the city isn’t quite for us. However, for entertainment purposes, you can’t really fault it. Our main purpose for going was to watch the popular musical, The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, which was as hilarious and outrageous as you can expect! Then the night after, we went to Club 99 to watch some stand-up comedy. So overall, we had a really enjoyable time.
However, while we were walking amongst the main strip of theatres, it got us thinking. We could see why London has this reputation for being ‘the place’ for theatre, but were frustrated as to why other arty cities (our hometown, Bristol, being one of them) are ignored.
The reasons why London is the theatre capital is arguably clear; shows are more accessible, there are a million productions to choose from, theatre is advertised like new film releases with massive posters plastered around tube stations, and most actors study and develop their work there.
But, surely that shouldn’t detract from great theatre shown elsewhere? This brought to mind an article by Mark Shenton from The Stage I’d read a few weeks back. He explained that due to lack of theatre funding, theatre critics have been forced to down-scale, thus mainly reviewing the big shows in London. This unfortunately segments the rest of the country from the capital and gives the illusion that theatre outside London either a) Doesn’t exist, or b) Isn’t worth watching.
However, Shenton stressed that if Londoners could be bothered to make the effort and (God forbid!) explore life outside of the capital, then they would be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of talent elsewhere. He talked about his trip to the Mold’s Theatr Clwyd in North Wales and how the level of work produced there was on par with shows at the Donmar Warehouse or National.
On a personal level, my experience of theatre in Bristol has been really varied, inspiring and in my opinion, well worth exploring. The Theatre Bristol newsletter is always jam-packed with new shows to go and see; whether it be plays, musicals, dance or circus.
Circus performance has a really big presence in the city; it’s something that makes Bristol stand out from the rest. Local Circus school, Circomedia, produces amazing talent and adds a different element to the theatre we experience. I watched an outdoor circus show not too long ago, which you can read about here, and I plan to go and see a lot more.
Another local success is the Bristol Old Vic’s production of Jane Eyre, which eventually went on tour and was even aired live at some cinemas; it was a raging success.
Another brilliant thing about local theatre is that The Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory Brewery open up opportunities for local people to showcase their creativity through scratch nights and open space events. For example, in honour of the Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Birthday this year, some friends of mine are getting involved in an Open Space event where they get to express what Bristol means to them. I expect that this event will be completely original and independent of anything you would see in London, simply because Bristol has its own living, breathing and creative personality. You can find more about the event here.
On another note, I’m really looking forward to seeing a local production at the Wardrobe Theatre next week called 1972: The Future of Sex. It was really well received at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where it received The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. I’m expecting outrageous behaviour, Ziggy Stardust and plenty of polyester!
So…who said London was the only place for theatre?
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