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45 strangers meet on stage: Review of The Record at Bristol Old Vic

I’ve sat for a while before putting fingers to keyboard and beginning this review because The Record is so hard to describe. That’s not because it’s bad; indeed it’s an astounding piece of work. But it’s so very unusual.

However, hey, let’s give it a go…

The show, the first UK production from cult New York theatre group 600 Highwaymen, opens with a lone woman stood on an empty stage.

She stares into the audience, gazing behind us with such intensity that I could feel several people around me resisting the urge to turn around.

After a minute or so of silence apart from the odd cough from the expectant crowd, she moves and strikes a pose.

The double bass player to the side of the stage then begins to play and digital sounds are mixed in.

The lone woman is joined by another woman who also stands starring  into the distance before holding a slow pose.

For the next 60 minutes a total of 45 people appear from the wings. Some stand on their own, others grab someone else’s arm, fall backwards into a fellow performer’s grip or run around the stage.

The people come in all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds. It’s a strangely beautiful flow of colour and movement from the group of 45 ordinary Bristolians from across the city.

But what makes this troupe of performers so extraordinary is that until the moment they walked on stage, they had never met. They didn’t even know each others’ names.

Each person worked individually with the directors for a month, learning their movements and memorising the exact places they need to be during the show.

Each performance then slots perfectly into place with a little boy stood in position as a middle age man places his hands around his face and a young man is in just the right space to be caught as he falls backwards into another man’s arms.

This is theatre in its rawest form and you can’t help but stare back at the actors and watch their faces as they meet their colleagues for the very first time in front of an audience of hundreds.

Part of the In Between Time Bristol International Festival, The Record is mind blowing yet ever so basic. These are real, unpolished people, but they managed to keep a sell out Bristol Old Vic audience silent and spell bound for an  hour.

Described as “part theatre, part dance, part group hallucination”, it’s a must see production.

Five out of five from Lifestyle District!

The Record runs at Bristol Old Vic until 11 February.

The Record by 600 Highwaymen

The Record by 600 HighwaymenImage credit: Maria Baranova

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