A world first happened on the Bristol Old Vic stage last night when breeze blocks were made into puppets by the Tony Award-winning team behind the stage adaptation of War Horse (below); the Old Vic’s very own artistic director Tom Morris and the Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa.
“How primitive can a puppet be and still be able to invoke human feelings in an audience?” asked Morris, as he took to the stage to introduce another world first for the newly restored Bristol Old Vic.
Whether breeze blocks will continue to be used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when it opens at the Old Vic in March 2013 is unlikely, but not beyond the realms of possibility in a production of which the intricate details will not fully emerge until curtain up on first night.
What is known already is that it will be the first collaboration between Morris, and Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones from Handspring, since they worked on War Horse together.
It is a partnership which has long been mooted and rumoured, and one which audiences in Bristol will have the privilege of seeing first before it transfers to to festivals in South Carolina and Connecticut.
Handspring are one of the Old Vic’s associate companies, and associate artist Vicky Mortimer will be the designer for this new show, which she describes as being set in the “future-primitive”, a different world that requires a belief in fairies and the supernatural.
Morris stressed that Kohler and Jones from Handspring (below, with Morris) and Mortimer are world-renowned artists.
Nobody is sure when puppetry was last seen on the Old Vic stage, and it will certainly never have seen anything like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, breeze blocks or not, with intricate and life size puppets familiar to War Horse audiences joined by smaller models.
There will also of course be some of Morris’ theatrical alchemy. “We wondered what it would be like if the puppets were how you behaved in public, and the puppeteers were who you really were,” he tantalisingly revealed.
The first ever performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 1590s took place in Berkeley Castle, less than 20 miles away from Bristol. This new production will not just be another world first; it will also be a homecoming.