Bristol Hippodrome feels that little bit magical. It’s surrounded by kebab shops and hectic theme bars on the waterfront, the floating harbour retaining a glimpse at Bristol’s darkened past but the modern bars and restaurants are more eye catching as the days draw in and darkness prevails.
There it sits amongst the bars and eateries, the 117 year old theatre old and grand a place of entertainment for many generations, still going strong. When no one is looking I reckon the watershed listens intently to the hippodrome’s stories of century old performances she’s housed, the plays and the actors passions, the crowds sneers, jeers and cheers.
I always get a little dis-orientated stepping into the hippodrome as it seems to grow as I ascend the stairs, it does though doesn’t it? It is pretty tall and the main stage area is lower than the street level right? I like it , I like that difference of realities from the street outside to the stage area within.
We were seeing war horse, my girlfriend had already seen it years ago but was willing to see it again, it’s that good! I rang my parents as we stood outside the ticket office and checked when they could get over and once we’d negotiated a date the tickets got sorted, months before the show, knowing they’d sell out quick. I am really glad we didn’t miss out.
It’s the puppetry! The acting is brilliant of course, seeing the same actors go from south-western towns cryer to British army drill sergeant then to German nazi soldier is all part of that theatre magic. The way they translate bombs and machine gun fire, the illusions employed to show young soldiers on a swaying ship heading to battle overseas. It was all so good. But watching the horses, powered by three people highly visible yet you forget they are there, that is a higher level of illusion, tricks hidden in plain sight! They move the heads and tails of the horses making them appear so realistic and often you’ll see the horses breathing.
In this modern age, with the rapid advancements in new technologies that will augment our reality I think that theatre and puppetry will only grow stronger as we appreciate the skills and effort of the people involved and the craftsmanship relying on god given talents rather than technological assistance.
Theatre still seems to be going pretty strongly although it might be we were a little spoilt experiencing such a popular performance. The Bristol hippodrome can seat 1878 people and there were no empty seats in view when we went. War horse is an experience you’ll not regret I am certain. Magic does exist in this world, it really does.
See some of that magic here: