Tom Marshman – I went to a marvellous party (2019)

I went to a marvellous party. Artist: Tom Marshman

The notion of taking words and images from the Archive and bringing them to life through speech and movement is an incredibly powerful form of communication and led to a much deeper level of engagement with the whole exhibition.

Gemma Brace

Former Exhibitions and Engagement Officer, Theatre Collection

Part-performance and part-installation, I went to a Marvellous Party was devised by live artist Tom Marshman in collaboration with the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, kindly supported by Arts Council of England.

Tom invited everyone to a marvellous party, bringing to life the University of Bristol’s fascinating personal archive of Oliver Messel,  one of the twentieth century’s leading theatrical stars.

Three live events were staged at different locations across Bristol. As master of ceremonies, Tom drew out untold stories from Oliver’s captivating world, animating the installation with timed performances inspired by a host of characters from Oliver’s personal and professional life; from Bright Young Things, to Hollywood starlets and theatrical dames.​

Visitors were encouraged to explore the installation, sharing in Tom’s curiosity as he delved through the Archive, discovering handwritten letters, musings and conversations, brought to life through interweaving audio and reproductions of original material.

Wake Up and Dream was an exhibition at the Theatre Collection in 2018 which explored some of the different stories and objects found within the Oliver Messel Archive.

As well as telling Oliver’s story through an array of original objects, the exhibition also included a new work by Tom Marshman, exploring Oliver and his partner Vagn’s love of lavish dining through the interactive audio installation The Caviar Outlook, which you can listen to below.

This was part of the University’s Heritage Lottery Fund project: Sharing the Messel Magic.

Tom Marshman

Tom Marshman has been a practicing performance artist for 21 years, and has produced over 60 projects, across many mediums, including: museum audio-tours, theatre and cabaret. Tom creates safe spaces where people can open up and share thoughts and memories. He works with communities to transform people’s thoughts and experiences into artistic experiences.

The results give evocative, authentic glimpses into everyday things – addressing issues that are often considered mundane or commonplace, and exploring what is often taken for granted. An overarching theme of Tom’s work is that of the outsider & their story, particularly regarding the LGBTQ+ experience, stories that been omitted through archival silence.

I Went to a Marvellous Party. Photo: Gemma Brace © University of Bristol Theatre Collection
Tom Marshman I Went to a Marvellous Party performance. Photo: Vonalina Cake
I Went to a Marvellous Party. Artist: Tom Marshman

Further resources

The Caviar Outlook: an audio installation inspired by items in the Oliver Messel Personal Archive.