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Friday, June 22, 2007

Bristol and its artistic legacy

I am saddened this week to hear of further problems for two of Bristol's much loved but under used and under funded venues: our two theatres offering serious drama. I have written before of the Theatre Royal, known as the "Bristol Old Vic", our wonderful but somewhat dilapidated 240 year old theatre. It still needs another £2 million to complete the programme of improvements and there is now talk of its possible permanent closure. I can remember going to the theatre as a child in the late 1940's when my father was in the Old Vic company and have noted with interest the fortunes of, and have seen some of the productions at the theatre in the years since. Artistic directors have come and gone over the years, have tried hard to bring challenging drama to our city with little support from the City Council and a Bristolian audience that seems to struggle with such challenges. Popular opinion seems to be saying a root and branch overhaul of the articitic policy is required, bringing whenever the renovations have been completed, a schedule of plays with much more public appeal than has been offered in the recent past.

It would be tragic to see the demise of the BOV, my father and many other actors and directors of his generation like Stuart Burge, Newton Blick, Nat Brenner and Paul Eddington, to name just five men I have known, would be turning in their graves to hear of the theatre's current parlous state.

As well as the Old Vic, our other "fringe" theatre The Tobacco Factory in Bedminster is also struggling. It is an intimite venue at the top of one of the former Wills factory buildings in Bedminster. It has put on plays from Shakespeare to "The Wills Girls" and has had great critical acclaim, but has not been commercially popular enough to ensure long term survival without additional funding and/or an injection of more successful marketing.
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