Written and developed at the Bristol Old Vic by writers Tom Morris and Stephen Brown, and the company of Wild Oats, Does My Society Look Big In This? was always going to be the wildcard of the theatre’s new season ever since it was announced earlier this year as the main auditorium was still covered in scaffolding.
The redevelopment of the theatre was itself subject to gentle ribbing, while the story of last summer’s Stokes Croft riots was told sensitively by actors on stage voicing the words of Chris Chalkley from The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, a policeman and an activist, interspersed with video footage of the violence and more talking heads, and also a conversation between a fictional student and one of those characters you only see around Turbo Island.
Knowing Bristol is certainly a help when jokes are made about the kind of people who live in Cotham, while among the jollity poking fun at the audience who had come from all four corners of Clifton, and Cliftonwood, was a particularly poignant segment from what was most likely a Somali resident of the city, whose husband was on drugs and brother took a knife to school.
Aiming to be as current as possible, the forthcoming mayoral elections gave a perfect opportunity to explore what the people of Bristol wanted from their elected representatives. The mayor we elected last night will today give £200 of real money to a special needs school in Bath, beating into also-rans such pledges as to paint all roads in the city the colour they are on maps and buying a cider press for the Old Vic bar.
Up and down in style, tempo and success, Does My Society Look Big In This? was at times laugh-out-loud funny, and at other times like a student revue show. Under-rehearsed, certainly. Unrehearsed, sometimes; although the actors are good enough for mistakes to seem like they are meant to happen.
If there was a running strand of story, it was of a modern dance student seeking to justify his life choices. In between his appearances, we had the best song about a taxman since track one on The Beatles’ Revolver (although George Harrison did not rhyme taxman with Paxman), Edmund Burke espousing his wisdom for anyone who cared to listen, and a quite brilliant caricature of a UWE lecturer who got some of the biggest belly laughs of the night.
Does My Society Look Big In This? is at the Bristol Old Vic on October 13, 17 and 19. Click here for more information.