Tobacco Factory Theatres’ artist residency scheme Platform showcased two shows this week, you can read more about that here. I went to see Tom Marshman’s ‘A Haunted Existence’ I’ve been watching Tom Marshman perform in various venues across Bristol for years now, from a walk about starting at Bristol Old Vic, to a pop up holiday rep at the Trinity. This show gathers all of his performance experience and stretches it into a whole new dimension. Tom is a natural on stage, it’s what he is born to be, he appears so at home, he’s one of those performers that allows the audience to breathe.
A Haunted Existence uses historical research (by Jeanie Sinclair), imagination and hearsay to bring ignorant laws to light and show how they can destroy lives. Mixed with dance, movement, music and technology and dry humour Marshman delivers a performance that will empower and inspire the audience to speak up for human rights. The show opens to a powerful alphabet of gay history, letters projected onto a thin black gauze created a beautiful frame for Tom to move to. The juxtaposition of hard facts and soft visual beauty was used throughout the performance. The pinnacle of this for me was the use of projection of soft pink flowers while Tom danced behind to music played on one of the three record players at the front of the stage; all of this while brutal stories of men who’d been arrested and served time in prison for being gay were being told. This show must go on tour, the importance of not just spreading knowledge and facts about gay history but watching someone who has lived life experience and performs these stories with a generosity and love – is vital at this point in our cultural history.
Before I came to see the show I read that Tom had got pewter mugs engraved with the words “you may think it’s morally wrong but I don’t.’ A quote from the show references gay sex, love and relationships. I have to be honest, I thought ‘why would you want one of those?’ However after seeing the show, I totally understood and if I had the money in my pocket I would have bought one, or maybe two or three, I had an urge to place them behind as many pub bars as I could.
Tom has done an interview about the show, you can read about it here.
Review by Anita MacCallum