Bristol Old Vic


January 2019




Strongman sterotypes

go into serious top spin

Ye gods, Hercules is a powerful production about a philandering husband and his pumped-up son set in Thebes, a ping pong parlour.

Well, I have to admit my school didn’t ‘do’ classical mythology, so the ancient storyline is all Greek to me.

But this is a modern tale of rape, deception and all things PC played at an exhausting pace by a young and energetic cast.

It held my attention totally and not for one nanosecond did anyone step out of character such was the professionalism of the players.

There isn’t a contemporary issue it doesn’t confront using minimal props including a portable table tennis table, bats and lots of balls!

Think flying testicles and testosterone versus Barbie dolls and rap instructions.

Zeus is a bullying, David Brent-type boss – a self -delusionary prick whose team rallying cry is ‘losers’.

He is married to horrid Hera - a mega mean girl in power dress mode.

The marvellous cast multi-task by swapping ‘bit’ roles for leads and vice versa.

In the second half we witness strongman Hercules working up a sweat when jogging through his elongated ‘community service’ challenges to amend for the wrongs he has committed in life.

The pack movement on stage is amazing – from wild animals to speeding vehicles – and the ping pong challenge(s) are ingenious.

Loved the tennis court grunts and lighting effects.

The audience on Thursday night, January 10, Laughed Out Loud often and fell silence in the more poignant moments.

 The ‘team’ costumes came from the Let's Get Physical wardrobe.

The declaration of love by Robin for Batman was touching – trying not to give too much away here - and the singing heavenly.

This is a showcase of talent in the Weston Studio until Saturday, January 12.

Strongly recommended.

Carol Deacon

Charlie Blows
Fablo Campus
Hannah Davies
Jake Davies
Kouni Dillanove
Jess Dix
Lily Gilchrist
Rosie Hartie
Toby Ineson
Osei Johnson
Elsie Murray
Hope Parish
Pablo Paul
Daisy Shephard
Luke Ashley Tame
Alyssa Thomas
Marcus Wood

LOTS OF BATS AND BALLS: Taking their seats, our review gets retweeted by Bristol Old Vic and the high octane performance in Weston Studio

Bristol Old Vic Young Company in Hercule
Bristol Old Vic Young Company in Hercule
Bristol Old Vic Young Company in Hercule
Bristol Old Vic Young Company in Hercule

PHOTOS; Bristol Old Vic Young Company in Hercules rehearsals © Jesse Meadows

PREVIEW: Bristol Old Vic Young Company presents a radical new interpretation of Hercules with the Wardrobe Ensemble.

The Wardrobe Ensemble have come full circle after a critically acclaimed run of their ground-breaking show Education, Education, Education, which played to packed houses in November 2017 and again in April this year.

The former Made In Bristol company is now returning to Bristol Old Vic to tackle one of Greek mythology’s most iconic characters – Hercules.

Bringing their trademark inventive theatricality to the table, the Bristol-based group are collaborating with Bristol Old Vic Young Company (T***k you) to re-examine the tale from a fresh, modern perspective.

Young Company is home to more than 350 young people aged five to 25-years from across the South West who take part in an on-going programme of weekly sessions, theatre masterclasses, community projects and full-scale performances.

Hercules marks Young Company’s first in-house production since the theatre’s recent redevelopment project and signifies a renewal of Bristol Old Vic’s commitment to producing and collaborating on inspiring new pieces of theatre created by the South West’s most exciting up-and-coming artists. 

The Weston Studio was built with five main strands of activity in mind, encompassed by an overarching aim of supporting the theatre-makers of tomorrow, whether that be through Bristol Ferment, the pioneering Literary department, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School or Bristol Old Vic Young Company.

The production is directed by The Wardrobe Ensemble’s founding member Helena Middleton, whose directing credits include Education, Education, Education, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Bristol Old Vic) and The Star Seekers (Wardrobe Theatre).

Joining Helena is musical director and fellow Wardrobe Ensemble member James Newton (Eloise and the Curse of the Golden Whisk) and designer and recent Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate Emily Leonard.

The newly devised show will radically reinvent the classic tale of Zeus and his son Hercules who lives in a world where only the best, the strongest and the bravest can win.

The Wardrobe Ensemble and Young Company have set up to scrutinise what it means to be strong in today’s society and examine the pressures of masculinity.

The cast consists of 17 young people, ranging in age from 11 to 22.
Director Helena Middleton said, "As The Wardrobe Ensemble was born out of Young Company, it has been an amazing pleasure to return and work with such engaged, talented and passionate young people.

"In Hercules,audiences can expect a ping-pong filled spectacle interrogating the negative impact of gender stereotyping and toxic masculinity.

"It is both funny and provocative, energetic and elegiac.

"The myths themselves make a sprawling, complex story and we’ve reinterpreted them and reset them in the modern day; where Zeus runs a ping-pong franchise, where the 12 labours become 12 community service tasks and where people struggle under the pressures of the expectations put on them."

Engagement producer Hattie De Santis said: “Young Company have thrived working with The Wardrobe Ensemble to devise Hercules.

"They have been empowered to try out new roles of theatre-making, such as writing and adapting an ancient Greek tale and creating music for theatre. Audiences can expect both Young Company and The Wardrobe Ensemble’s signature ensemble practice in this honest take on what masculinity is today.”

Hercules will run in The Weston Studio from Wednesday to Saturday, January 9-12.

Tickets from £13 by clicking HERE