In contrast to the recent performance of Wild Oats (see previous blog), Does My Society Look Big in This? was experimental, contemporary and drawn from more local themes. Based on the current climate in Bristol, using things such as the up coming mayoral election as key story lines, this had described it’s self as topical and funny.
Devised by Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director Tom Morris and the cast of Wild Oats it has been put together over the last few months. This did show a little and it wasn’t polished but the informal style and invitation of audience performance meant that it would probably never be totally the same from night to night anyway.
Although performed in a naturalistic style the actors were still playing characters – a cross section from society including an MP from the 1700’s, a student, an activist, a Policeman and Elvis impersonator etc. Between them, enough diversity to present a couple of opinions on the Stokes Croft riots of 2011 and a few scenes asking us to think about our own part in our society.
As part of the development of the piece, some of the cast had taken to the streets with a survey and I did enjoy the presentation of the results in the form of song with some beautiful harmonies. Again helping to connect the audience with other members of Bristol society, getting thoughts on questions such as ‘have you ever felt proud to be Bristolian?’ and ‘what is your vote worth?’. Giving the audience chance to perhaps hear an opinion totally different to their own, but that of someone from the same city and maybe even the same neighborhood or street.
The main event within the performance was a Mayor of the Bristol Old Vic election, and for this money was put up by BOV as a budget or perhaps bargaining tool, and candidates were asked to put themselves forward. Some of the actors were nominated and some audience members put themselves forward for candidacy. During the interval the candidates mingled and got a sense of what the people/audience of the BOV wanted and after the election put forward their manifesto for what they would spend the £200 on if they were to win the election. We all then voted and the majority vote was for the money to go towards paying for the parking for Nurses of the city centre hospital.
All of the above was peppered with the necessary puns and political satire one would expect from the title, and although I am not the biggest fan of audience participation or being guilt tripped in to donating to charity it was all carried out in a confident and honest exploratory way. I left feeling as though more of Bristol could have been explored, but like I had really witnessed something different that had been worth exploring.