Who would ever have thought that our group Meadows To Meaders would go from acting on the streets of Southmead to the stage at The Bristol Old Vic. In our very first Southmead soap opera in 2017 we worked with the Old Vic and some of them performed with us on Ascot Road. The play was a real success and residents kept asking us when the next one was going to be. We are currently working on writing the scripts for Meadows To Meaders 5 which will be based on more residents’ stories of growing up in Southmead (better than Eastenders as the stories are true!)
Last year our producer Ruth Myers suggested that we take part in a Greek tragedy which would be performed at Bristol Old Vic. To say that we were gobsmacked was an understatement. My initial thoughts were “no!” because we write our own scripts! A Greek tragedy sounded so far removed from our community plays it was almost unthinkable. But Ruth doesn’t give up that easily and before long we were actually seriously thinking about it.
We also learned that Lucy Hunt (the director from the Old Vic) had been determined to get us on stage ever since they came to Southmead in 2017. The play was called “Orpheus & Eurydice” and is all about love. We started rehearsals in Southmead earlier this year and our director was Lisa Gregan who also directed our first play. She was brilliant and very down to earth, and she even let us put a bit of Meader talk in the play!
The play had a cast of over 140 people from across Bristol which included many community groups. We shared our rehearsal space with a group called “Oi Polloi” who were recovering from alcohol/drug misuse issues. The age range was from 7 to 87 and the youngsters actually played the Gods. Rehearsals ramped up towards the end of August. We had to learn the “Dance Of The Dead” which was very beautiful.
Our group played Ferrypeople who ferry the dead souls to the Underworld. Our scene was very funny with Orpheus looking for Eurydice and us telling him to get lost. Sher Fowler added a line at the very end of the scene which was “Cheers Drive” which made the audience laugh out loud. There were 12 of us in our group and we had the very lovely Carlota Matos as our producer. She sometimes had to reign us in at rehearsals as we were laughing so much at Sher’s interpretive dance. We did present her with a lovely bunch of flowers, a card and some goodies after the final show. We told her that we couldn’t have done it without her and that she had the patience of a saint.
During the play there were seven speeches called WIKOLS (What I Know Of Love) performed. I was lucky enough to be chosen to perform a monologue of my memories of love throughout my life. These could be about a friend, an animal or a partner. Although it was scary it was also wonderful to express them on stage. Luckily the spotlight was so bright I couldn’t see the audience faces! I didn’t realise that my words would make people laugh and cry. You can read my WIKOL below!
We performed the play 4 four times and had a sell-out crowd of 500 people at each one. The play was pure Bristolian, and the writer Adam Peck did a marvellous job with it. We had a 5-star review from StageTalk magazine. A man even came all the way from London to get a ticket, but they were sold out! Everyone at the Old Vic was so friendly and supportive it felt like we had known them for years.
It was such a brilliant experience for all of us and has brought our group even closer. We will, of course be back performing in Southmead with Meadows To Meaders 5 but if we get asked to do something out of our comfort zone again, we will definitely take it on!
Deana’s What I Know Of Love Monologue
What I know of love is my first kiss with a boy aged 13. He was so tall that I had to stand on an orange box. I did not like the kiss as it was slobbery.
What I know of love is my first adult kiss with a co-worker. It was a magical moment to share with him as it was in a dirty, smelly warehouse. We were both so fed up with a summer of rain and the kiss will live long in the memory.
What I know of love is the day that my husband and I had our first proper date. It was a boiling hot day in June, and we went to a disco together. We both went outside to cool down and sat on some steps. We both looked at each other and said, “I think this is the start of something special”. We got married 6 years later and have been married for 43 years.
Bristol Old Vic’s Orpheus & Eurydice 2023. Main and second photo credit: Ben Robins