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 (15th) From 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.