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Bristol 24/7

A lovely article about the Old Vic from Bristol 24/7

Bringing Bristol Old Vic’s 252-year-old history to life

By Martin Booth, Thursday Nov 8, 2018

“This is my favourite space in the entire theatre,” says Bristol Old Vic artistic director Tom Morris, stooping underneath oak beams and brandishing what looks like a wooden cannon ball. “You really feel the history of the place up here.”

Morris is standing next to the thunder run high in the roof space, part of the fabric of the original theatre from 1766 which can now be seen by the public for the very first time as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded project that hopes to uncover 252 years of secrets.

The noise of the balls sent down what is in essence a giant marble run within what was once the theatre’s scenic workshop acts like a subwoofer, reverberating through the building’s ancient timber.

Bringing things right up to date, it’s fascinating to see original architectural features up here which fed into the designs for the theatre’s recently opened new foyer.

Ancient…

… and modern

From the newest part of the theatre to the oldest, the new heritage experience has been put together by a wide variety of people from archivists to app developers, artists to animators.

Over three levels, Bristol artist Emily Ketteringham has illustrated characters, playbills and posters. Next to the theatre’s pit, a touch screen enables visitors to access a digital archive of past productions and show materials.

Along an interactive corridor, hands-on exhibits take in sound design from the digital era way back to the thunder run.

Playing with sound in the interactive corridor

An augmented reality app from Limbic Cinema and Zubr draws you in via three magic portals, through which you are taken back in time to the familiar 1970s foyer right back to the courtyard from the 1770s when the theatre was accessed via a house on King Street.

And using the theatre’s newly unveiled wall as their canvas, a team from Aardman have created an animation about the architectural transformations of the building using projection mapping, which will welcome guests into the auditorium before each evening’s show.

Morris says that the theatre has survived through a mixture of luck, economic accident, “and an extraordinary and passionate love affair with the people of Bristol, who have defended it and renewed it time and time again during its unmatched 252-year-old lifespan”.

He adds: “We are humbled and inspired by the quality and range of artists who have worked with us on this project, which will allow us to share the theatre’s unique history with new generations of visitors.”