Thursday, 26 June 2014

'Wild Men' – at Bristol Old Vic

Photo: Matt Collins
Having previously seen shows called Wild Oats and The Wild Bride at Bristol Old Vic, I certainly had to see Wild Men to complete the triptych.

Directed by Samuel Bailey, Wild Men is delivered by the new Hotel Echo theatre group and is a part of Bristol Old Vic’s Made In Bristol project: a training scheme for young theatre makers.

An inventive project, Wild Men ties into the centenary events marking the anniversary of the start of the First World War, and successfully links the innocence of young Bristol men – many still teenagers – drafted up for the fight with their bewilderment and naivety as they face tough decisions in France.

Having previously stood united as choristers in Bristol Cathedral, the small group of young Bristol men find themselves reunited on a reconnaissance mission in the church of a small French village while war rages all around them. The village is largely deserted, save for the elderly and infirm… and the shadow of approaching German soldiers is looming close over their heads.

Combining careful choreography with choral music, Wild Men engages some imaginative physical theatre to show the unity and discordance that quickly begins to seep through the small group of Bristolians, bewildered by a situation they never thought they’d find themselves in.

What is also striking is the harsh reality for their wives left behind. As Edith, Kat Stokes is convincing when she struggles to put on a brave face while facing gruelling manual labour on the farm, and pining for her new baby who she barely sees from one week to the next and is cared for by her parents-in-law. The pain of the scarcity of letters and news from her husband Frank, Chanelle Bernard, is something Edith struggles to hide from those around her, who are all juggling their own strung out emotions.

As a debut show from Hotel Echo, Wild Men is a strong example of our younger theatre makers embracing and marking important historical events, and not being afraid to take bold steps while doing so. The play was inspired by a plaque in the corner of Bristol Cathedral commemorating the choristers who fought in the war, and Wild Men is a fitting tribute to their bravery.

Wild Men is performed at Bristol Old Vic until July 28, before touring in Scotland. For more information or to buy tickets, please click here. 

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