Ice Road- Jacobs Wells Baths ☆☆☆


The crème of Bristol artistic talent has come together for Ice Road, an immersive work at a former Victorian bathing house near the centre of town, places its audience directly into the terrible siege of Leningrad in 1941 where it was estimated over 800,000 people died, many from starvation.

The four orphans whose story playwright Sharon Clarke adopts definitely look the worst for wear. Tucked away in the wreckage of an old destroyed apartment building, they scramble to survive, fighting off unwanted intruders and sharing out any hard won food they can find. Performers Heledd Gwynn, Elin Phillips, Roanna Lewis and Alex York are fully engaged in their work; bruised, vulnerable and a little bit feral, they fully convince as citizens of a Soviet Union left to rot by a world that has abandoned them to their fate.

If these performances never quite hit the heart, it is less to do with their work and more to do with structure that sees the performances get lost in the industrial sized  Jacobs Wells Baths. Conor Murphy’s cavernous set rises 100 feet in the air, some moments of action playing perilously high above us as though Cirque De Soleil aerial acts have taken to the sky for a death defying plunge. To fill the space the four performers are forced to scramble, climb and run in almost constant motion, it is dizzying and occasional disorientating and director Kate Hewitt cannot hone in on the moments the audience need to focus on. The 70 minutes pass in a blur, its narrative never always being immediately clear and the fate of its character never fully gripping.

It’s a shame as the whole is so close to being something momentous. Animation by Aardman, projections by Limbic Cinema and a sound design that shakes the very foundations by Timothy X Atack are all astonishing, as is the deep coated snowfall that audience and performer alike trudge in. You feel the cold of the place, even on an unseasonably muggy October evening.

Raucous have been a very welcome addition to the Bristol scene and this is a work that deserves to be seen for sheer ambition alone. Each individual element is rich in detail and execution, what it lacks is a guiding steady hand to blend it all together. An impressive technical achievement but one that lacks drama


Fossils- Wardrobe Theatre ☆☆☆☆

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Science and the arts; as diametrically opposed on first glance as water and fire, lead and gold. Where art is all about exploring and empathising with the unknown and the grey areas, science is driven in fact-quantifiable evidence, black and white. Artists are generally seen as social creatures, the day to day gig helping them become socially empathetic and able to make small talk. Scientists…. not so much.  Yet the joy of Bucket Club’s Fossils playing at the Wardrobe Theatre until Saturday is that it takes the forensic focus that is science’ life blood and tunes it, making a work as laser focused as it is charming. For all the play at the heart of this show- with intentionally dodgy accents, winks to the audience and plastic dinosaurs- there is something technically assured and clear at its base. Writer/Director Nel Crouch never allows it to veer too far off course, the science and the art always in balance, the exploration as clear as the research Vanessa undertakes on a daily basis.

At 28 years old and having spent almost all this in the lab, Vanessa is used to structure, discipline and fact. Yet haunting her daily life is the disappearance of her father when she was 16, missing in action as he hunted for the mythic Loch Ness Monster. When Nessie hits the tabloids, Vanessa retraces his steps hoping to make her own essential discovery. In all honesty, the narrative is not the works strongest element, there are no surprises here, no explorations into the magic realist realms you might expect the work to make, science is built on solid element, not fancy forays into the mythical.

What makes the 70 minute work so charming is its assured sense of stagecraft. Helen Vinten shows both the dedicated scientist and the little girl lost as Vanessa, her ferocious work drive never fully hiding the fear, the disapproval of her father’s letters still turning her into a little girl lost. Her exploration to find out what happened to him feels as futile as finally getting to the bottom of what is at the bottom of the Loch. Adam Farrell and Luke Murphy play both the two PHD students she shares her Lab with and other assorted characters with gleeful ease and provide the haunting live soundscape at the heart of the work. The staging makes the most of the lo-fi elements, a little toy dingy being placed in a glass case of water is especially effective. On little resources they build up a world as rich in meaning  as that of Paulo Coelho.

Even with the short running time Crouch never rushes, always prepared to allow the work to take its time, reflect on the results of each action. Like the best science, it doesn’t rush to come to its conclusion, like the best art it engages the emotions early and never lets up. Recommended.

Tosca- TF Theatres ☆☆☆

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They say villains get all the best tunes and this is certainly the case in The Opera Project and Tobacco Factory Theatre’s co-production of Puccini’s Tosca.Nicholas Folwell’s terrifying chief of police Baron Scarpia prowls the stage like a vengeful Napoleon, a physically diminutive man hooked on power and sensual pleasures. It is a performance masked in grubbiness, of a sad little man with the power of a fiefdom surrounding him. The body may be small but the voice is a rumble, a bass roar that speaks of the monster hidden underneath the surface. When charm doesn’t work in his appeals to Mari Wyn William’s Tosca brutality takes over. It is difficult to remove your eyes from him. A performer who has made a name as Alberich in Ring Cycle’s around the world this Scarpia can be pinned to his operatic villain resumes.

If I spend the beginning of the review honing in on Folwell’s work, it’s due to it being the only performance that comes close to fulfilling the passion and romanticism of a work that was described on first viewing as ‘a torrid little thriller.’ If the musicianship, as to be expected by this company now firmly ensconced in the Bristol theatrical calendar, is always exemplary, the production itself feels a little Middle England. If it’s a common complaint that we Brits have too much repressed feeling, it’s at the detriment, of a work that needs more scorching sensuality and more sense of impending violence.

William’s Tosca is prim of costume and of manner. She may be the girl you could take home to your mother, but she doesn’t scream out opera star to rouse passionate ardour in all the men who orbit her. Similarly Robyn Lyn Evans comes across less as heroic as a little bit of a drip in need of mothering. While last year’s Don Giovanni always felt seductive and purring with danger, this production, directed by Richard Studer is safe, a little paint by numbers. It hits all the requisite beats but never feels particularly pertinent or thrillingly urgent.

Thankfully though there is always the music. Listening to Puccini’s score, played by a surprisingly muscular orchestra of 12 under the baton of Jonathan Lyness, is a joy. Williams tone is always sure and occasionally golden, while Evans tenor makes up for in heroism what his performance lacks. When the two come together vocally the fireworks soar. A tentative recommendation then, for strong musical styling’s that overcome production anaemia

Living With The Light On- TF Theatres ☆☆☆☆


In February Mark Lockyer produced the performance of the year as an insinuating, complex and vile mix of contradictions Iago, that took hold of the Bards play by the throat and refused to release his hold over three-tension shredding hours, that left many in the audience with memories that even the strongest of soaps could not wash clean. It was a performance of a top class actor tackling one of the great roles, a careers worth of experience building up to an alchemy that sometimes magically occurs between performer and role. Yet this could easily have not been; for a number of years Lockyer’s life could have taken a vastly different path, one that took him to the brink in psychiatric hospitals, prison and the streets. In the impressive, occasionally painful, always hopeful one-man show Living with the Lights On we are given a personalised account of what befell him.

It was while playing Mercutio at Stratford that he met the Devil on the Banks of the Avon, or more specifically, in his undiagnosed bipolar disorder an American tourist called ‘Bees’ who talked him into many of the mistakes that were to come; originally minor and humorous infringements like playing an improvised sax routine at the Capulet ball or spending £350 on flowers to impress a first date and then deeper and darker ones- cutting out loved ones from his life and burning down an ex’s flat which would lead to lock up and eventual recovery.

Lockyer, like many an actor, is a born raconteur with the gift of making even the worst of mental illness an entertaining jaunt without ever cheapening the dark realities of the situation. As a work it also perhaps wisely holds back just enough. Brought to the stage under the auspices of Actors Touring Company and director Ramin Gray there is always the feel of performance for all the painful truths. Every character who enters the production is given a masterful characterture, each part of the tale is as sharp as a blade and septic wiped. Is this the curse of the character actor, to disappear into the shoes of those he inhabits, perhaps even to find solace in hiding behind this? It’s an interesting idea in a work brimming with them, dropped into the mix without ever fully answering it.

For a theatre addict like myself any shows with allusions to the stories and personalities of the big players in British theatre and actor camaraderie are always a big hit but there really is something for everyone. In a brave, unflinching work about the devastating effects of mental illness it shows us the worst of times but also shows that yes, things can and will get better. The work bookends itself as a phone call from a new AD in Stratford opens up a return to the company where it all fell apart. It’s an uplifting end to an evening that constantly shows there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Caretaker Review Roundup

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Bristol Old Vic and Northampton’s Royal and Derngate revive Harold Pinter’s 1960 play The Caretaker as part of their autumn season. Directed by former Gate Artistic Director Christopher Haydon it is the first all-black production of the play since the National Theatre’s version in the early 1980’s. Starring Patrice Naimbana (Barber Shop Chronicles NT, The Histories RSC) as the tramp Davies along with Jonathan Livingstone and David Judge as brothers Mick and Aston it plays at Bristol Old Vic until the 30September before stopping off at The Nuffield, Southampton 10-14 October and in Northampton 17-28 October.

Kris Hallett- WhatsOnStage  3 stars

It is a striking visual representation of Harold Pinter’s play, one that asks its audience to look at his 1960 breakthrough hit with fresh eyes…Christopher Haydon’s production…..consistently interrogates the text anew…..If the accent occasionally means lines of dialogue are lost, Naiambana still peels back the layers within the tramp….. His intentions as he attempts to turn one brother against another don’t seem as malicious as usual, but of a man making it up as he goes along; used to having to turn every little advantage, any sign of weakness into his favour; his is a world where only the strongest survive. When he is presented with shoes, he cups them in his hands with a look of wonderment akin to King Midas discovering his gold. Human kindness has left this man behind…..If Livingstone is slow and heavy David Judge’s Mick is lithe and coiled, like a puma ready to pounce….. violent menace is at the heart of so much of Pinter’s work. Here Haydon pushes that atmosphere to the forefront, lighting from Paul Keogan casts the room in angular shadows while Elena Peña’s sound design crackles with horror motifs, it can feel a little much at times but is consistent with Haydon’s overall concept to turn Pinter’s drama into a non-literal nightmare. In this, he succeeds.

Lyn Gardner- The Guardian 3 stars

Entering the theatre, it looks as if there has been an explosion: chairs hang in mid-air, a wardrobe tilts in empty space and a ladder to nowhere is suspended above the stage. Designer Oliver Townsend has borrowed to clever effect from Cornelia Parker’s 1991 installation Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View to create the setting for Harold Pinter’s Godot-influenced 1960 play…It might be read as a play about how a good deed does not go unpunished; it could be seen as a warning that blood will always be thicker than water; and it is often like watching a chess game in which one player thinks he has a winning move only to discover that he has been tactically outplayed. Director Christopher Haydon plays it as a parable of our times, a migration … Townsend’s design lifts it from the literal and into an enclosed dream space, one rumbling with distant thunderstorms, which crackles with electricity recalling the electro-convulsive therapy that Jonathan Livingstone’s Aston has been forced to undergo. This room is a place of shadows where potential dangers lurk:…Haydon gives this timeless play a little shove out of the 1960s and into the 21st century…he and Naiambana treat Davies with real compassion….This one shows us his vulnerability – and how poverty, homelessness and constant uncertainty make you duck and dive, creating paranoia about those who might be getting ahead of you in the brutal game of survival…It’s an evening that, like Davies, is in danger of outstaying its welcome. Judge doesn’t always manage the disconcerting changes of mood that should make Mick such a terrifying adversary. But Livingstone provides fine support as the burned-out Aston, a quiet husk of a man incapable of building the shed he dreams of constructing.

Dominic Maxwell- The Times 4 Stars

The stage may look like an explosion in a junk shop, but Harold Pinter’s much-revived three-hander from 1960 comes thoroughly box-fresh in this riveting rejig… Yet if skin colour is the initial talking point here…it’s the execution that matters. The last couple of productions I saw…made me wonder if The Caretaker, for all its not entirely explicable oddness, was in danger of becoming a museum piece. Here, its housebound absurdism crackles with life, a mix of comedy, sadness and sadism that you can’t second-guess. And skin colour is only really relevant here with the character of Davies, the homeless old man played by Patrice Naiambana as a relentlessly larky, unstoppably discursive Jamaican…his opening sally against “all them blacks” now marks him out as a different kind of cracked….It’s a magnificent performance…Livingstone, forever fiddling with the same toaster plug, is the perfect straight man — and excels in his moment in the spotlight talking about his electro-shock therapy. As his big brother and landlord Mick, David Judge is a joy: a lithe, clenched bully who laces his aggression with ostentatiously articulate facetiousness…The chemistry between these odd bedmates keeps the air alive with dark comedy, as the play manoeuvres somewhere between myth and kitchen-sink absurdism….Whether you’re an old hand or a newcomer to this cornerstone of Sixties drama, this is a marvellous mix of the strange and the familiar.


Rosemary Waugh- The Stage 4 stars

Harold Pinter once said that The Caretaker was funny “up to a point”. That point is the bull’s-eye at the centre of director Christopher Haydon’s new production….Haydon delicately draws out the strands of sorrow running throughout, resulting in a staging that’s both entertaining and sensitive. Patrice Naiambana…is a largely convivial mass of semi-controlled chaos….Under other circumstances, Naiambana’s performance would be a show-stealer, but David Judge’s Mick is also superbly unsettling. His performance is physically impressive, involving endless squatting and springing around the space, and he has the ability to make idioms seem disarmingly creepy: “got off on the wrong foot” in particular….Oliver Townsend’s set design looks like a snapshot taken from the centre of a tornado. A multitude of household items float in space. Rain hammers against a window seemingly in free-fall. It’s this balance of familiarity and absurdity that Haydon excels at exploiting in Pinter’s play.


Broadway World- Tim Wright 3 stars

Christopher Haydon directs with the right amount of faithfulness to the text alongside flexibility for his cast….. For Pinter aficionados there may be one too many liberties taken with the script but Patrice Naiambana as Davies, brings a pleasing change of pace to the script with his Caribbean flow. Contrasted with the exacting and precise Mick (David Judge) their scenes provide the highlights of the production…. Oliver Townsend’s design is a constant marvel. It’s as if a normal flat, full of odds and ends has exploded and then frozen in time while on its way back down to earth. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the nightmarish goings on in the flat, as if it could all come crashing down at any second. The trickle of rain down the window is a constant reminder of the bleakness. For all its style though, the production doesn’t always find its rhythm….Wisely perhaps, Haydon doesn’t play the script too much for laughs but that does make the revelations in the play less uncomfortable without the contrast. What is apparent though, is that Haydon is looking to find new meaning from the text….. In this, the production breaks new ground, even if it’s a little bumpy along the way.


Bristol 24/7 Shane Morgan

… “there is no point in doing anything except to discover something new.” It is this approach to a 20th-century classic that makes director Christopher Haydon’s vision of The Caretaker such a triumph….In many ways, David Judge’s Mick is the riskiest of performances on offer. A dangerous mix of Romper Stomper and A Clockwork Orange with a Joe Orton-esque delivery, Judge squats and thrusts his way across the stage, bringing menace with every perfectly articulated syllable….The stage is a beautifully crafted explosion of a squalid, dark and damp apartment designed by Oliver Townsend…At the epicentre of this vision is Patrice Naiambana’s pitch-perfect Davies. This is a performance so full of charm, humour and tenacity that it will prove to be one of the great readings of the role…. Haydon weaves together a version of The Caretaker that is relevant today, now….This isn’t simply a revival, it is a re-imagining. It is bold, terrifying and funny: a classic mix of the best elements of Beckett absurdism, Osborne anger and Orton grime. These are elements that always exist in Pinter’s writing but are all too rarely exploited. Haydon does this with startling effect. This is a classic version of a classic play that demands and deserves to be seen.


Reviews Hub Leah Tozer 4 stars

Director Christopher Haydon and designer Oliver Townsend’s set for Bristol Old Vic… on display as the audience take their seats, certainly feels like a moment frozen in time: suspended in the space are step ladders, drawers, desks, trolleys, toilet seats, light-bulbs, buckets, a door, and two windows with rain dripping down; a scene that feels like it should be in motion, but that is inexplicably still, as if someone has pressed pause….David Judge, wearing a leather jacket and chewing like a tough-type on a toothpick, uses an impressive physicality to jump, prowl, and pace about the place, commanding the space but uncomfortable in it…. finally, Jonathan Livingstone’s Aston…serious, slow, and almost stilted, but as all is revealed in a revelatory, heartrending monologue, it also is revealed as a perceptive, astute performance that falls into place, and makes sense, as slowly as he moves.

The characters are like atoms in space – or time – all existing at once independently of one another and occasionally making contact. Sometimes there’s a reaction, a moment of connection, as when Aston reaches out to offer Davies a new pair of shoes. Sometimes there’s an explosion, as Mick’s staccato, commanding speech reaches a crescendo with the Buddha statue as a casualty. But, most of the time, there’s nothing but space between them: their speeches land somewhere beyond each other and they float further away into space, isolation, and loneliness…There are moments of humour, but it’s also heartbreakingly human, showing that the search for home isn’t just about houses, but other people, too

Two Man Show- Circomedia ☆☆☆☆

Gender seems to be a focal point for a images (1)lot of independent theatre companies this year. The display of the female form and whose gaze this is designed for has been a part of a number of shows from Hot Brown Honey to Sh!t Theatre. Nakedness is front and centre of Rash Dash Theatre’s Two Man Show, a work that explores the female form alongside the male psyche. Exploding genre’s together- from cabaret to physical theatre along with naturalistic duologue scenes- performers Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland alongside musician Becky Wilkie offer a show that is slippery on first watch to get to grips with. There is plenty going on under the surface that requires a lot of scratching to reveal.

It all begins with a story, the girls talking into a mic that distorts their voices to childish pitch and explains the history of patriarchy. In the caveman era they explain the average life expectancy was 30, which basically means that patriarchy was created by teenage boys. The words we speak, the rules we live in, all decided by men. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus is it any wonder that women find their way blocked in a society designed through patriarchal history.

The poster warns of (non-sexual) full frontal nudity and that is what they provide. It is the parenthesis that describes the effect though under the male gaze female bodies are defined as erotic currency, yet here the nudity ends up feeling as natural as a new born babe, an acceptance of woman’s bodies  for what they ae rather than what they are fetished as. The difference between the two genres can be revealed with the minimum of manipulation as we see them turn Michelangelo’s strong virile David into a coy flirtatious coquette with little more than a jut of a hip and a flick of the wrist.

Its weakest sections are the dramatization of two brothers reuniting at the deathbed of their father. From the names Dan and John to the man-spreading, jutting jawlines and talk about cars to hide emotion it is ‘man’ painted in the most primary of colours. You can see what they are trying to do here, yet it does feel a little like an assault, however much they try to address it come the conclusion. I have seen a number of works this year that have painted ‘man’ as the enemy and it can feel for those with a y chromosome a helmet is required to avoid shrapnel shots every time we step into an auditorium. It is likely a build-up rather than an issue directly with this show but in taking aim they are also simplifying a sex down to its most obvious weaknesses’ something that critics would definitely take exception to if the shoe was on the other foot.

For all its frustrations though it all comes together at the end with a terrific climax as Goalen and Greenland break out long monologues that look at what being a modern female means. It concludes that women should be as accepted for being as loud, bolshie and free as they want or indeed quiet, thoughtful and kind-hearted. Women wear as many hats as there are people and ultimately this is a show that asks for an understanding and an acceptance of each of them. If male created words aren’t enough to fully explain what they are feeling, this work of total theatre helps articulate it loud and proud.

Two Man Show plays at Circomedia until the 16September and then tours

Autumn Theatre Preview 2017

After the drought of summer here come the flood of Autumn. The theatre calendar is packed full of drama before a jam packed Christmas full of family (and some not quite so PG) crackers. So here’s a list of shows that are definitely worth marking on the calendar, from musicals, opera and classics to new work there really is something for everyone as the nights draw in and extra layers are required.

The Caretaker- 9-30 September Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic’s big Autumn production is a revival of Harold Pinter’s 1960 work, directed by formed artistic director of London’s Gate Theatre Christopher Haydon and starring Patrice Naiambana in the role of Davies, who gets his feet under the table when he is invited into a home. The design shots seen so far suggest anything but a straight telling of this modern classic.

 Two Man Show- 13-16 September Tobacco Factory atCircomedia

Partnering with MAYK Tobacco Factory Theatres brings Fringe First award winners Rash Dash to Bristol with this show that explores gender, language and humankind. These girls were the talk north of the border last year with a show that defies classification. Mayfest comes a few months early.

 Living With The Lights On- 18-22 September Tobacco Factory

Following his thrilling turn as Shakespeare’s quintessential villain Iago earlier this year in Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory Othello, Mark Lockyer returns to the Tobacco Factory with his one man show that explores the actors personal battles with mental health that led a once promising actor onto the streets and and his hard fought road to recovery.

 The Real Thing- 18-30 September Bath Theatre Royal

Laurence Fox stars in one of Tom Stoppard’s greatest works in the latest Bath Theatre Royal production, starting its life in the theatres main house before touring round the country. High class sheen is always one of the company’s great assets, combining this with such an intelligent work could produce terrific results.

 Puccini’s Tosca- 27 September-14 October Tobacco Factory

The Opera Project and Tobacco Factory co-production is always a highlight, witnessing opera in intimate surroundings is as hair raising as witnessing it in some of the great houses. This year Puccini’s thriller gets the chamber treatment.

 Ice Road- 2 October- 19 November Jacob’s Wells Baths

Following on Raucous Collective’s first show The Stick House, this new multi-disciplinary work taking place in a Victorian Bath House should provide a powerful experience. Sharon Clarke’s script, aided by, amongst others, Limbic Cinemas projection and Timothy X’s sound score, hones in on an abandoned apartment building during the siege of Leningrad and looks at the story of the children left behind in war.

 Rita, Sue and Bob Too- 3-7 October Bristol Old Vic

The great Max Stafford Clark has done more for regional theatre than almost any other director in the UK having made regional touring a priority of his career all the way from the late 60’s to today. He signs off from his work with Out Of Joint with a revival of one of his most successful works Andrea Dunbar’s play about the sexual awakenings of young female adolescents. Filthy and hilarious in equal measure, its Stafford Clark at his best, ensuring the regions weren’t left with little more than light entertainment in its theatres.

 Fossils- 4-7 October Wardrobe Theatre

An extinct fish, missing father and live electronic score combine for the latest work from Bucket Club directed by previous director in residence at the Tobacco Factory Nel Crouch, which has travelled to New York for Brits Off Broadway since its successful premiere at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

 The Bekkrell Effect- 18-21 October Bristol Old Vic

The showcase piece of this year’s Circus City be prepared for a punk aesthetic take on circus to rock the old Theatre Royal. French company Groupe Bekkrell are presenting what the blurb claims is an ‘exhilarating visual feast’. For those who expect their circus traditional be prepared to leave your preconceptions at the door.

 War Horse- 18 October- 11 November Bristol Hippodrome

This needs no preview. A risky show that became a worldwide hit it’s a homecoming of sorts for Joey with co-director Tom Morris firmly ensconced as artistic director at Bristol Old Vic. It’s likely to be this autumn’s hot ticket so get booking now.

 Waiting for Godot- 19 October-4 November Tobacco Factory

The first ever sole producing work for the Tobacco Factory sees them produce Samuel Beckett’s seminal work, famous for, as Vivian Mercier claimed nothing happens…twice. Of course there is much more to it than that with a musicality to its text that few other plays can match. With the news that original director Peter Hall has sadly passed away, this is a fitting reminder of a seminal work that changed how Britain looks at theatre.

 Christmas Eve- 19 October-18 November Ustinov Studio

Following The Mentor’s trip to the West End German literature superstar Daniel Kehlman returns to the Ustinov Studio with a new work, reuniting the heavyweight due of translator Christopher Hampton and director Laurence Boswell. It sounds like a cracker too, a real time thriller pitting two foes against each other in an interrogation room where only one can come out the victor.

 People Places and Things- 24-28 October Bristol Old Vic

This Headlong and National Theatre hit will also be hitting New York this autumn with its original cast intact so the British tour will allow a chance to see a brand new cast tackle this pulsing work. Lisa Dwyer Hogg will take on the role that propelled Denise Gough to acclaim and an Olivier award. It also plays Bath between the 17th and 21ST October.

 Education, Education, Education- 1-4 November Bristol Old Vic

Bristol’s own The Wardrobe Ensemble return with their latest Fringe First production. The last 1972: And the Future of Sex was pure bliss, a perfect melding of ideas and execution that showed this company had really arrived. The acclaim from Edinburgh suggests that this is on the same level. It looks at the 90’s school system, of Blair, Chumbawumba and a system that left Britain in special measures.

 How To Win Against History- 2-11 November Tobacco Factory at Wardrobe Theatre

An Edinburgh smash hit twice over Seiriol Davies musical comedy about Henry Cyril Paget, flamboyant fifth Marquis of Anglesby in the 19th century who blew it all on being ‘just too damn fabulous.’ For those who like their theatre big and flamboyant and with a cult edge this is one not to miss.

 The Tin Drum- 7-18 November Bristol Old Vic

The last time writer Carl Grose, composer Charles Hazelwood and director Mike Shephard came together it ended up being my favourite show of 2015 Dead Dog In A Suitcase. This new musical adaptation of Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum promises the usual Kneehigh aesthetic; anarchic, theatrical and possessed of huge heart. Consider me excited.

 Up Down Man- 8-18 November Tobacco Factory

A sequel to the terrific Up Down Boy and again starring Matty Butler it’s a look at the question that every parent with a child with disabilities must facewhat happens when I’m not there. Don’t expect it to be a solemn look at a pertinent question, like its subject it promises to be fun while making you look at the situation from a different light.

WNO Autumn Season- 15-18 November Bristol Hippodrome

The Welsh National Opera seasons are now a firm part of the Bristol theatrical year. This Autumn they will be bringing the Russians to St Augustine Parade with takes on Eugene Onegin (15thFrom The House Of The Dead (16th) and Die Fledermaus (17th and 18th). For a chance to see opera on a lavish scale outside of London WNO can’t be bettered.

The Open House- 23 November-23 December Ustinov Studio

Will Eno’s play has already been an award winner Stateside winning Obie and Lucille Lortel awards for best play and featuring on many end of year awards lists. Former RSC boss Michael Boyd returns once again to a theatre that is now becoming a regular home to him. Autumn seems to be the point in the Ustinov produce their big hitters, its rare one of the Autumn shows doesn’t feature on my own best of list.

Reservoir Cats- 23 November- 21 January Wardrobe Theatre

It’s a sign of how successful the Wardrobe Christmas shows have become that it now has the longest run of any show in the area this Christmas season. This year’s Xmas mash up is of Quentin Tarrantino’s break out Sundance hit and a certain Lord’s tuner about felines looking to go up to heaven. Bristol’s underground Christmas hit is no longer much of a secret. Grab your friends and go.

 Beauty and The Beast- 30 November-14 January Tobacco Factory

New International Encounter’s smart storytelling production played to packed houses last Christmas in Cambridge and is likely to find as warm a reception in Bristol. The Tobacco Factory has always produced a strong scrappier rival to the Old Vic for battle of the Christmas shows so expect less of the glitz of the smash hit Disney film but just as much of the heart.

 The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales- 30 November- 18 January Bristol Old Vic

Before Emma Rice takes up permanent residence in the city in which she resides with her new (controversial) company Wise Children she brings a show that premiered at the Globe last Christmas to the King Street venue. Emma Rice’s work feels very much at home here and these four fairy tales should warm the cockles as much as a steaming glass of mulled wine.

The Wizard of Oz- 1-19 December Redgrave Theatre

Bristol Old Vic Theatre Schools Christmas show is the RSC version of Frank L Baum’s classic (which once starred Imelda Staunton as Dorothy-fact). It’s a chance to see the stars of the future working on family friendly fare at ticket prices that won’t break the bank for all the family. In November they will also be presenting How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found (9-17 November) at the Station Silver.

Little Mermaid- 7 December- 14 January The Egg Theatre

The Egg is a year round feast of family theatrical goodness so it is only fitting that their Christmas shows are a true treat. They are also an opportunity to see South West talent get a chance to ply their trade, this year writer Bea Roberts and BOVTS trained director-choreographer Cameron Carver combine along with BOVTS stand out Georgia Frost in one of her first jobs out of drama school.

 Aladdin- 9 December- 7 January Bristol Hippodrome

QDOS won the battle of the panto brands and so take over the big traditional Bristol pantomime from under First Family Entertainments feet. It’s a ritual as old as time, D-list celebs (Marti Pellow, Joe Pasquale), the latest chart hits and groan inducing jokes. But come on admit it, you can’t help but leave with a smile upon your face.