The Bristol Old Vic present a staged performance of Handel’s Messiah in Bristol Proms

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photo of four actors set to play the messiah

L-R Toby Jones, Jessica Murrain, Jamie Beddard and Nir Paldi. Photo by Paul Blakemore.

For four nights this April, four extraordinary actors will join renowned opera and concert conductor Harry Bicket, Europe’s most celebrated Baroque orchestra The English Concert, the glorious Erebus Ensemble and four giants of classical music Julia Doyle, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Joshua Ellicott and Brindley Sherratt for four one-off stagings of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.

Renowned stage and screen actor Toby Jones, Theatre Ad Infinitum co-artistic director Nir Paldi, Extraordinary Bodies lead artist Jamie Beddard and actor and poet Jessica Murrain will each play the role of the Messiah for one night only. Drawing on the tradition of Passion Plays, from Europe to the Philippines, each night will offer a ritualised and entirely unique performance carried by some of the most sublime music ever written.

When he wrote his sacred masterpiece Handel was at the height of his powers as a musical dramatist, turning to the subject of the greatest story ever told with music of huge emotional power. Too controversial for performance in churches, the piece premiered in a concert hall in Dublin and Handel insisted that the singing actress Susannah Cibber be cast at the emotional core of the piece, in the alto role.

This Easter re-staging is a Bristol Proms event, building on an experimental scratch performance in the Bristol Proms of 2013. It will explore the drama and struggle of faith, showing a group of people whose grief at the loss of their leader is transformed into hope through a narrative of resurrection.

Presenting the talents of the world’s most accomplished musicians, Handel’s Messiah will receive the full Bristol Proms treatment, complete with the riotously affordable standing pit, on-stage seating and the legendary Bristol Proms rules. Performers and audiences will inhabit the same intimate space, while a heightened theatricality will make Handel’s greatest work fizz with accessibility.
Tom Morris said:

“Bristol Proms was created with the ambition to release the gut-punching power of “classical” music for both experienced and new audiences alike. Performers from Paganini in 1831 to Daniel Hope in 2015 have felt the relationship between classical music and its audience intensify by the addition of theatrical techniques on our unique stage. Handel’s dramatic power and the intensity of the Messiah story lends itself to this kind of reinterpretation.”

Widely regarded as the one of greatest stage and screen actors, Toby Jones’ credits include Elizabeth I, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the National Theatre and his Olivier-award winning performance in The Play What I Wrote. His film work includes the role of Truman Capote in the biopic Infamous, Oliver Stone’s W., the Oscar-nominated Frost/Nixon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hunger Games and Dad’s Army. He also provided the voice of Dobby in the Harry Potter films. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role as Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl and in 2017 portrayed Culverton Smith in “The Lying Detective”, an episode of the BBC crime drama Sherlock. Toby is an Associate Artist for Bristol Old Vic.

Jessica Murrain is an actor, poet and theatre maker. She has recently worked with companies such as Complicite, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Travelling Light, LIFT and has just completed a critically acclaimed run at Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre in The Long Trick. Co-founder of the company Theatre With Legs, her most recent work Digs was performed at New Wimbledon Studio and The Pleasance.

Nir Paldi was born in Jerusalem and spent his childhood living in the disputed Palestinian territories, before moving to Tel Aviv as a teenager, and then to Paris where he trained at the École Internationale de Théatre Jacques Lecoq. Nir is co-Artistic Director for Theatre Ad-Infinitum and directed the company’s multi-award winning Odyssey in 2009, which still tours the world today. He continues to create many award-winning productions for the company, including The Big Smoke (Best International Show at the United Solo Festival 2014, New York), Ballad of the Burning Star (The Stage Award for Best Ensemble and Off West End Award, 2013) and Ad Infinitum’s latest piece, Bucket List (winner of the 2016 Spirit of the Fringe Award). Bucket List has recently embarked on a two-month UK tour.

Jamie Beddard is a director, writer and actor and part of the creative team behind Extraordinary Bodies, a collaboration between Diverse City and Cirque Bijou, the UK’s only integrated circus company. Jamie’s acting career began in the BBC film Skallagrigg. Since then Jamie has taken the arts world by storm. He recently performed in the National Theatre’s The Threepenny Opera, directed by Rufus Norris, appeared in the West End production Carrie’s War and the BBC series All The King’s Men with David Jason. He has been an associate director for Graeae Theatre company, co-editor of ‘Disability Arts in London’ magazine, in 2012 he directed ‘Breathe/Battle for the Winds’ for the London 2012 opening ceremony celebrating the Olympic Sailing, and in 2013 he became a Clore Fellow. Jamie acts as an advocate for the integrated sector, working tirelessly for change.

Listings Information
6-9 April
 Handel’s Messiah – presented by Bristol Old Vic and The English Concert
 Theatre at 
7.30pm
£40-£15
0117 987 7877 / bristololdvic.org.uk

6 April – Nir Paldi as the Leader
7 April – Jamie Beddard as the Leader
8 April – Jessica Murrain as the Leader
9 April – Toby Jones as the Leader