SS Great Britain launches immersive performances

10 May 2024


10 May 2024


The Passenger Takeover experience champions Bristol’s creative talent in an innovative new approach to museum living history interpretation in partnership with Bristol Institute of Performing Arts and Bristol Improv Theatre.

From 25 May to 2 June, Brunel’s SS Great Britain will be the stage for a truly unique performance experience involving 20 degree students studying musical theatre. The immersive performance programme, Passenger Takeover, was created through close collaboration between the SS Great Britain Trust, the Bristol Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA), and Bristol Improv Theatre.


It is thought to be a first for the museum sector, with the SS Great Britain Trust’s Head of Living History delivering part of their training on site as the degree students become involved in the entire process, from research and character development through to authentic costume planning and live performance.


Students from BIPA preparing for photos in costume from Bristol Costume Services.

The project benefits from Arts Council England funding and will see 20 BIPA students reimagine real-life passenger stories in onboard performances. In the Passenger Takeover project, BIPA students received specialist training from Bristol Improv Theatre and worked alongside the SS Great Britain Trust to ensure their interpretations were historically accurate and authentic.



To bring the performance to life, the SS Great Britain Trust also worked with Bristol Costume Services, which houses a vast selection of costumes and accessories for theatre, film and television.

Bristol Costume Services has previously provided costumes for iconic television series, including Sherlock, Doctor Who and Poldark.

As one of the fastest ships to Australia in its day, the SS Great Britain was a popular choice for people from all walks of life who wanted to emigrate to the other side of the world. In the Passenger Takeover project, BIPA students will bring these individuals to life, including merchants, farmers, and botanists.


Simon Strain, Head of Living History at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, said: “On behalf of everyone at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, I’d like to thank the Bristol Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA) and Bristol Improv Theatre. We’re also very grateful to Arts Council England for funding this project. It’s been wonderful to shine a spotlight on the future stars of our region through this project and to develop a new collaborative approach to costumed interpretation. We can’t wait to watch their performances throughout the May half term.”


Jack Maurice (left) and Simon Strain (right) at Passenger Takeover photoshoot

The SS Great Britain Trust is renowned for its STEM learning and engineering outreach projects, such as the award-winning Future Brunels, and regularly collaborates with educational and community partners throughout Bristol. The Passenger Takeover project exemplifies the Trust’s commitment to investing in local talent and fostering a sense of local pride and connection and extends the collaborative approach to partner with creative arts organisations for the first time at this scale.


Brunel’s SS Great Britain is the top-rated visitor attraction in Bristol and a top 10 museum in England (TripAdvisor 2024). As well as championing local talent, this innovative new experience will help to attract new visitors to the ship during the busy half-term period.


Jack Maurice, Artistic Director at Bristol Institute of Performing Arts, adds: “Through the Passenger Takeover project, we’ve embarked on a journey where history meets the stage, where the stories of ordinary people aboard the SS Great Britain are brought to life by the extraordinary talent of our students. This collaboration with SS Great Britain Trust and the Bristol Improv Theatre marks not just a performance, but a celebration of Bristol’s rich heritage and the vibrant creativity of our community. Moreover, this immersive experience is fuelling our students’ training in improvisation, character development, and performance alongside an interactive public audience, challenging them to delve deeper into their craft while connecting with history in a truly dynamic way.”

Meet the Victorians this May Half term

Passenger Takeover