Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Image: Brian Slater
For the past few years Bristol Old Vic Theatre School have been developing links with the Royal West of England Academy (RWA). In 2012, the BOVTS Design, Costume and Scenic Art graduating student exhibition was held at the Academy for the first time, a relationship the gallery was keen to develop further. The exhibition was extended in subsequent years through greater use of AV and digital media to attract a wider audience. As part of the collaboration, RWA provide free admission and publicity and BOVTS can also access valuable feedback from gallery attendees.
BOVTS’s work with RWA again places the school’s artistic activity at the centre of cultural life in Bristol, and in 2015-16 the collaboration extended to the presentation of an exhibition themed on the history of Theatre in Bristol, in conjunction with the 250th birthday of the Theatre Royal and the 70th birthdays of both the Bristol Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
The exhibition covered the entire main galleries of the RWA and introduced visitors to how theatre practice has developed in Bristol. Work by students on the Costume and Scenic Art courses in particular was showcased, including specific examples such as the process of costume making and scene painting for theatre productions. One element included reproducing a period costume from a painting by Dame Laura Knight, ‘The Yellow Dress’, in its various stages from original design, fabric samples, and toile, through to the finished costume. This painting was created in 1948 while the artist was at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford upon Avon. The exhibition also included a painted backcloth taken from the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection from its archive of Bristol Old Vic’s past Head of Design, John Elvery; the cloth is a reproduction of a cloth from the Bristol Old Vic’s production of Cinderella and demonstrates techniques and processes involved in scenic art.
This unique collaboration between school, theatre, gallery and the University of Bristol Theatre Collection reflects the way cultural organisations in Bristol are developing a shared vision and interpretation of their work to a wider public. The exhibition opened in December 2015 and ran for six weeks.