Bristol Old Vic recently premiered the verbatim theatre show ‘Spill’ through Made in Bristol, its own scheme for training and supporting young theatre makers and practitioners.
With a simplistic mise-en-scène featuring a ‘Sex Party’ placard, a table with drinks, and a synthesizer, the dozen young actors and actresses went on narrating, singing, dancing, and originally recounting their sexual individualities.
The audience is to immediately grasp the meaning of ‘verbatim theatre’ by listening to the gradual uncovering of one story after another which doesn’t sound like an artifice, rather as a word for word chatter. This is not achieved by theatre enchantment, but through a prior thorough process of gathering 20 interviews from 32 people with the view of representing various experiences – literally.
This method helps the shaping of unique characters with a distinct voice – characters that definitely have something to say, even if they feel confused, lost, and hurt in the search of their sexuality.
What Spill ultimately achieves is finding equilibrium, the right balance of representing open sexual issues and concerns across the board. Subtly rejecting any preconceived concepts and conventional wisdom as to what classifies as normal/abnormal, the show candidly discusses homosexual, transgender, asexual, and pansexual experiences.
In a limited time span, the crew brings to life first-time experiences, almost-rape kind of stories, and diverse journeys of personal discovery.
Without any moralizing, the actors’ are only preoccupied in chronicling the good and bad, the black and white and all the shades in between, not holding back saying even the unsayable, like individual fantasies.
There’s no straightforward sex path to enjoyment, and the gates of pleasure are to be found. Spill fully acknowledges this and besides the ambitiousness of the project, successfully delivers a compactness of a play that genuinely shines through.
Raymond Carver would have probably concluded: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Sex’. Spill knows.
Photos: Paul Blakemore