Bristol Theatre News

Review: A Shining Intimacy Tobacco Factory Theatres

‘A Shining Intimacy’ was a quote describing the friendship between the much-loved British actors Kenneth Williams and Maggie Smith. It’s through this relationship that Tom Marshman brings us a gentle and thought provoking show about how we connect with each other.

Through his love of the two actors, their characteristics, their professional collaborations and shining friendship, he relates this to a similar relationship he once shared with a close friend.

By the end of the show, you feel like you know a lot about the wonderful type of person Clare Thornton was despite never knowing her. The artist sadly died in 2019.

Through spoken word, quotes, performances and anecdotes with remembered words and fragments of memories, Marshman creates a safe and warm environment for his examination of theatre. Its ephemera. Ghosts of performances that are lost to time.

Throughout much of the show he is joined on stage with his own performances of Williams and Smith, projected behind him. At times he is them. At times he joins in from the background like a theatre ghost.

It’s through this ephemera Marshman talks about how we keep lost friends alive by making them part of us. The dynamic stories people tell that we adopt, share and animate as if they were our own. The way they might say or pronounce a word. How a simple object like a lettuce might trigger memories that retrospectively were good ones despite the professional stress of the time.

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Tom wonders about Maggie Smith’s description about the ‘invisible thread’ between the actor and audience. The threads we had with those we lost. How we keep those threads alive. And as the show makes connections between Williams and Smith and in turn Tom and Clare, the thread then connects to us as we draw comparisons with our own lives.

A Shining Intimacy at Tobacco Factory Theatres this week
Photos: Vonalina Cake

Though it’s not specifically billed as such, it’s also a surprisingly uplifting way of working through grief and loss. There is a poignant moment when the projection of Williams disappears from the stage having been present, contributing throughout. Maggie Smith remains, illustrating what must have been an aching loss in her life.

After the performance has finished, Tom wants to know how the audience felt about what they had seen. He extends the feedback to abstract concepts. What colour did the show feel like? Did anything take you out of the performance to somewhere else? It’s an interesting and again thought provoking way of looking at the impact of theatre and its connection with audiences in a fresh way.

In this respect, A shining intimacy is a dynamic aura of shimmering turquoise with flashes of silver. This lovely show is a fascinating way of making you look at the connections you have with the people in your life and how we keep those alive when they are no longer with us.

It’s on at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 12 May 2023.

To book:

For more information about Tom Marshman:

For more information about Clare Thornton:

Cast and Creatives
Created and written by Tom Marshman
Producing support from Sarah Warden
Originally Produced by Nia Evans and Katie Cooper
Lighting Design: Jen Roxburgh
Outside Eye: Jen Bell Laura Dannequin
Original Music: Duncan Speakman
Writing Support: Karen Mcleod & Ben Atterbury 
Projections created by Hannah Whittaker 
Movement Direction: Roseanna Anderson 
Toy Theatres designed and made by Jennie Cave 
Voice Coach: Carol Fairlamb
Ribbon Machine created by Isabelle Lyster

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