For anyone who lives in or is visiting Bristol within the next few weeks, there is a very interesting exhibition at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history. Until February 28th, the Collection hosts “Talking Audiences”, an exhibition which is the culmination of two years of archival research by Dr Kirsty Sedgman into the Bristol Old Vic as part of her British Academy postdoctoral Fellowship project.
Nearly lost in the late 1940s, when under threat of being sold off as a warehouse, the Bristol theatre was built in 1766 as the Theatre Royal, and was one of the first successes of the Arts Council of Great Britain’s remit of making great theatre available across the country. Linked to London’s Old Vic, the relationship had its stresses and strains, but the theatre thrives to this day, long after the link has fallen away.
Although the theatre’s journey was an uneven one, the exhibition traces the ups and downs of these early years intercut with audience reactions, which makes a fascinating look at how a venue interacts with those it seeks to engage with.
You can find out more information here