Bristol Old Vic Ferment Fortnight

Bristol Old Vic
(CC-BY NotFromUtrecht)

Bristol Ferment is the community of theatre-makers from Bristol and the South West that Bristol Old Vic supports and helps to develop exciting and adventurous new work. Twice a year, we can get a glimpse behind the scenes of the artistic process during Ferment Fortnight, when work in progress is performed and discussed directly with the audience.

The current Ferment Fortnight runs until 31 January, so there’s still time to check it out for yourself.

The Stillness of the Storm That Never Came at All
by Clerke and Joy
Bristol Old Vic, Friday 24 January 2014

I arrived in the Studio Theatre to the powerful smell of garam masala, coming from a large pool of it spread on the theatre floor. Josephine Joy created sound effects using a laptop, a microphone and an array of electrical goods, while Rachael Clerke delivered a monologue about an Indian girl who has just moved to Mumbai after studying abroad in London. The sounds were a combination of traffic, voices, weather and domestic appliances, occasionally ratcheted up so that they threatened to drown out the monologue. Combined with the spice smell this gave a powerful sense of place to the story, especially considering there were no visual cues to place it anywhere particular. The story is currently only a snippet but it was absorbing and well written, and I definitely felt that a whole character had been created in this brief snatch of a play.

After the performance we had a Q&A in which Clerke and Joy explained the roots of the show and where they hope to take it (as well as encouraging lots of feedback, which is after all the whole point of Ferment Fortnight). Their plan is to write three monologues for three actors, each set in a different city. They will have a musician or DJ on stage and do a lot of their scene-setting with soundscapes. They have themes they want to explore but no firm story as yet. (To be fair, I should mention that they have only been writing this for a few days, having not long been back in the UK after spending three weeks in Mumbai running theatre workshops and developing the concept for this show.) Their themes include weather, feminism, decline in industry, reclaimed land, migration and oral storytelling – which is quite an eclectic bag, yet I can see it working. All of those are already present to some extent and the choice of the other two cities (one of which is likely to be Belfast, but the third is completely unknown right now) will no doubt both be informed by and have an effect on that list of themes.

The monologue text came from the workshops and some other conversations that Clerke and Joy held in Mumbai. I thought they demonstrated a gift for picking out the thoughts and observations that got to the heart of what this one lonely girl’s experience of Mumbai would be like. This play has the potential to turn into a really fascinating glimpse of some very different locations and lives.

I loved this opportunity to see something so raw and new, something unformed but brimming with potential. I’ll definitely be checking out future Ferment performances.

Disclaimer: A free ticket was kindly supplied to me by the theatre in return for contributing a review to Theatre Bristol Writers.