Old Vic restores link with theatre school
A HISTORIC award that links Bristol's oldest theatre and its theatre school is set to spark a series of new bonds between the them.
Bristol Old Vic has announced that it will reinstate the Chesterton Award which gives two graduates from the school six months' work within the theatre company.
The school, in Downside Road, Clifton, was opened in 1946 by Laurence Olivier as a training school for the Bristol Old Vic Company. It began life in a cramped building behind the Theatre Royal stage door.
The Chesterton award ran in the 1980s as a way to reward the outstanding graduates with repertory work at the company but the relationship was lost over time.
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In recent years a shared name was the only thing that connected the theatre company and the theatre school but Bristol Old Vic's artistic director Tom Morris said reinstating the award would be the catalyst for a new working relationship.
He said: "In my view it is madness that the theatre school and the theatre have not been working side by side. When the school was set up graduates would be contributing to shows and cementing their training with hands on work.
"That was why drama schools started. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) was founded by Herbert Beerbohm Tree with that vision in 1904. I want things to go back to the way things were and for there to be a symbiotic relationship between the school's stage designers, actors, technicians and the theatre company. The kind of link between a hospital and a teaching hospital."
Among the most notable of the actors on the school's list of alumni are the Academy Award winners Daniel Day-Lewis and Jeremy Irons and multiple Academy Award nominees Miranda Richardson and Pete Postlethwaite – all of whom went on to perform with the Bristol Old Vic theatre company.
Mr Morris said: "If you look at the graduates such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Tim Pigott-Smith and Sam Bond they said that coming into the company was the most important step in their careers. I'm really not sure why the award stopped.
"This won't be the only link though – it's the tip of the iceberg. I'm holding a workshop tomorrow, to work on a new production I'm preparing for next year, and I'm inviting some students from the theatre school and the university to take part. The school is like a living laboratory of brilliant young actors who are keen and passionate and their contribution keeps things fresh."
The first two winners of the award have been named as Isaac Stanmore and Emily May Smith.
Mr Stanmore said: "I am really looking forward to starting rehearsals and the coming six months – being on the Old Vic stage honing my skills, learning from those around me and working with some exceptional people. It's a fantastic opportunity and I'm honoured."
Ms Smith said: "I feel privileged to be welcomed into the Bristol Old Vic company for the reopening of the beautiful theatre. It is really exciting upon leaving drama school to be granted such an incredible opportunity – to learn from the experience of inspiring directors and work with a company of professional actors."
Mr Morris added: "They will go straight into rehearsal for Wild Oats, our opening show, and then help devise topical comedy for Does My Society Look Big In This? before going into rehearsals for Peter Pan."