Writer: Alan Garner (adapted by Firebird Theatre Company)
Music: Mark Laurence
Reviewer: Samuel Shelton
This single act piece has charm, back bone and most of all a kind of pert gallop. With a cast of 16, most of which disabled, it’s smiles all round as the deserved compliments flood the stage. The Breadhorse is an adaptation from the 1975 poem/short story by Alan Garner and Albin Trowski about a children’s game that gets out of hand. This piece is bravely taken on by the long established Firebird Theatre Company.
The stage resembles a playground, in which the rules of the Breadhorse are announced. Each child hops onto the back of another child and that child is now “it” or “the horse”. However, the game takes a downwards turn as the other children begin to bully and gang up on an individual child who is always “it”. That child then begins their own journey of empowerment and transformation to overcome the bullying and resolve harm they have undergone. This multimedia platform uses a projector that beams the words of the play onto a soft black cloth, behind which are several dangling metal horse shoes creating a wonderful faint shimmer as the lighting changes. Above the words are the paintings and drawings beautiful composed by Carol Chilcott. Each piece by the artist has an individual expression that resembles the stress of the protagonist through to their transformation in this piece.
The cast is accompanied by a fantastic choir. During a scene one of the actors begins to sing an enigmatic incantation alone centre stage, she is gracefully picked up on her final note by a crescendo of voices and instruments conducted by the experienced Mark Lawrence. This incantation is repeated throughout the piece and alters in its musical expression as the play shifts in emotion. The stage play is adapted in a way that suited all members of the cast and filters through the individual’s abilities. Firebird adapted The Breadhorse with complete freedom and permission by Alan Garner. The only negative for this piece would be its length, 45 minutes just isn’t enough time to spend with such an original cast.
The combination of the meticulousness of this piece, which was two years in the making, and the passion in each line that resonates from every cast member, reminds the audience of a kind of quality that is becoming rarer every day and that is pure spirit to perform. This will not disappoint anybody and is arguable one of the most rehearsed pieces performed at the Bristol Old Vic so far.