On Wednesday 25th June, I went to see the latest performance from this years ‘Made in Bristol’ company, Hotel Echo. ‘Made in Bristol’ is a scheme run by the Bristol Old Vic to support a group of young people to gain skills in theatre production. This performance of ‘Wild Men’ is the culmination of the group’s time at the Old Vic.
We walked into the more intimate setting of the Studio, where the actors were already on the stage and awaiting the hush of the audience after the final patron had filed in. Dressed in red choral robes, we are introduced to the five choristers from Bristol who end up enlisting in the army to fight in the fields of Normandy during the First World War. Throughout the performance, we get to know how their friendship began as boys, and continued to develop and change as they grow into manhood and face the harsh realities of war.
The subject matter of life in the trenches of World War One is always an emotive one. However, seeing the roles played by young people who are of a similar age to the young men who actually would have been going off to war made the performance even more moving and powerful.
The actors’ made great use of limited props, moving effortlessly around the stage and travelling seamlessly from the present day to the past and back again. There was a great use of the choral music, starting off harmonious and melodic as we are introduced to the young choristers, and becoming increasingly discordant as the performance becomes darker and the young soldiers face difficult decisions with no one to guide them. Despite the youth of the actors in the company, the performance was professional and is a great testament to the training and skills these young people gain as part of the ‘Made in Bristol’ experience.
The ending? Well, I won’t give it away, but I took an intake of breath at the very last second, and it was rather a while before I breathed out again.
‘Wild Men’ is on at the Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 28th July, and is well worth watching to see some talented young actors who are sure to go on to bigger and great things.