Ferment Fortnight

Ferment Fortnight 22 – 31 January Bristol Old Vc

The Magic Toyshop

A friend asks you to briefly describe what you’ve just seen. What could you say?

It was a script reading of an Angela Carter play, deeply symbolic in nature, with themes of burgeoning sexuality, magical realism and loss of innocence. Typical Angela Carter. Melanie, recently orphaned, travels to London to live with her mysterious Uncle Phillip in his grand toyshop. There she meets her mute aunt Margaret and Irish cousins Finn and Francie, and it emerges they are all living under the thumb of the tyrannical head of the household. As Melanie uncovers the secrets of the Toyshop, she finds herself growing attracted to the rebellious Finn and gaining unwanted attention from her megalomaniac Uncle.

Can you tell us about 3 things that particularly stand out/that you find particularly engaging.

Despite the fact it was a script reading, the actors did their best to recreate the stage with body language and seated movement. There ability to act against ‘imagined stage action’ was impressive and gave me an image of what the lavish set will eventually look like. The script itself was very engaging, intertwining plot with ancient mythology, and really adding to the building sense of dread.

Where do you see this piece going next?

When the script directions were read out, they hinted at an amazing set with musical interludes, scrumptious costumes and elaborate puppetry, which I think will make the play really come alive. I sense it will become a very rich and hypnotic piece of theatre.

Any other comments

I heart Angela Carter.


The Ayn Lady

A friend asks you to briefly describe what you’ve just seen. What could you say?

Barker and Larkin play Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Weidman; two Americans who became intertwined in the author Ayn Rand’s life after initially contacting her as fans. They switch between lectures on the benefits of Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, and scenes from the self destructive soap opera their relationship with her quickly became.

Can you tell us about 3 things that particularly stand out/that you find particularly engaging.

Ayn Rand is a polarising figure, divisive in her philosophy of objectivism and selfishness, but in that respect she is endlessly fascinating and ripe for exploration. She also wrote my favourite book The Fountainhead, which friend, I recommend you read. It’s long, but it’s good. Whilst I think this piece has some good insights into whom she was, it could have done with more context for those with no knowledge of the author, or her history with Nathanial.  I did however enjoy the crowd sourcing section, where anonymous answers where given to some of the more tricky and controversial questions objectivism poses, such as contributions to the country from those in poverty. It seemed political poignant considering the current climate of fear mongering and blame shifting.

Where do you see this piece going next?

I think the most interesting sections, or the ones that made me warm to the characters most, involved the exploration of the relationship between Ayn, Nathanial, Barbara and Ayn’s husband Frank. Perhaps this could be amped up, as well as more context given for who Rand was and who they were. The friend I bought knew nothing of Ayn Rand, and was unsure throughout whether this was a true story or a fictional account of her life, which I think distracted him from absorbing the piece fully.


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