Hidden histories of one of Bristol most infamous streets will be on show next week as the Wardrobe Theatre hosts Old Market (Remixed), a one-man show celebrating the extraordinary in the everyday.
Tom Marshman, 49, a producer, actor and storyteller with over two decades of experience, is both writer and performer of the show which weaves together real life stories to offer the audience a glimpse of a part of Bristol history that could soon be lost forever to gentrification.
Through interviews with residents, sometimes conducted ad hoc on the street, Tom hopes to capture the stories of the neighbourhood’s ‘very idiosyncratic characters’ before they are lost to the accelerating gentrification of the area.
The show reflects on tales from the 1990s, a period in which Old Market established itself as Bristol’s gay village, and rescues them from the archive and the museum to breathe into them new life.
‘I was interested in the queer elements of the stories,’ said Tom, who describes his work as telling the stories of outsiders, particularly the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and those who have been historically silenced.
Many people have fond memories of nights out in Old Market, but Old Market (Remixed) is not just about the parties and the good times, but the social histories too, said Tom.
One such history concerns Aled Richards, who in 1985 became the first Bristol man known to die of Aids.
Some of Tom’s interviewees worked for the Aled Richards Trust, a charity founded in 1985 in memory of Aled to provide care and support for people with HIV and Aids. A blue plaque now marks the address at 8 West Street, Old Market, which once housed the Trust set up in Aled’s name.
Tom, himself an Old Market resident, said it is important to do this work now as the neighbourhood is at a delicate point in history with ‘massage parlours next door to the sourdough bakeries,’ highlighting how gentrification can collide and combine with existing structures.
He worries that through gentrification the characters he knows will become less visible. Consequently, he said: ‘It’s important now to shine a light on them and celebrate them’.
Old Market (Remixed) was made on a shoestring budget and made possible via a grant from Bristol City Council. ‘I feel like that’s like Old Market,’ quips Tom, ‘made on the cheap.’
Tom explains that the staging involves little more than himself and fairy lights, but ‘I think that allows the stories and the voices to hold the space that they need to hold, really. So there’s no flashy effects, it’s storytelling.’
The process of building a show from interviews with residents ‘follows in a long trajectory of the way I make work,’ said Tom. This, however, is the first time Tom has made a show about his home turf, an experience akin to, as he colourfully puts it, ‘It’s a bit like shitting on your own doorstep.’
Old Market (Remixed) invites the audience to rethink what they know about the past and to question what’s happening in the present.
Old Market (Remixed) is playing at the Wardrobe Theatre, Old Market Assembly, BS2 0DF, from Tuesday November 1 to Saturday November 5, 7:30-8:30pm.
Tickets can be found here.