Review: 1972: The Future of Sex

I really loved the Old Market Assembly and The Wardrobe Theatre as a venue.

You first walk into the The Old Market Assembly, which is a bar and restaurant; it has a really nice, vintage feel about it with dim lighting, a warm open fire and a live jazz band (it also had some yummy Vegetarian and Vegan options on the menu!). If you’re looking for a night out with a difference, you should check it out here.

The theatre itself has recently been refurbished and it looks great; it’s a very intimate space which really worked for this piece.

The play begins…

Mis-matched chairs, murky beige carpet, gaudy patterned wallpaper and flared trousers:

We enter into the Wardrobe Ensemble’s land of 1972.

We begin with a rather over-excited man raving ecstatically about the exciting prospects of the 70’s; the pill, sex, open homosexuality, drink, drugs and parties. Meanwhile, the other actors look increasingly more uncomfortable the more uncontrollable he gets; we actively see this reluctance to adapt to a new age amongst the older generation.

Microphone stands are scattered around the edge of the set; these are used by the actors to narrate the action and become each other’s inner voices.

We follow a selection of young adults tackling their way through their own sexual discoveries. With new ideas on female identity, pornography, homosexuality and cross-dressing, the youth of the 70’s had a lot to get their head around.

The Wardrobe Ensemble with their award from The Stage. Sourced from:

Christine is planning her first sexual experience with her musician boyfriend, Rich. However, due to scare-mongering and misinformation, Christine is terrified. Thus, she decides to take notes while watching the pornography blockbuster at the time: Deep Throat. This, as you can imagine, does more harm than good in regards to her self-esteem. At this point, the theme of pornography is weaved into the present day, where it is now more accessible than ever before. We’re told of a young teenage girl, confused about why her boyfriend still watches it.

Of course, David Bowie was the pinnacle of self-expression and sexuality at the time. We see Anna, a shy young woman living with her parents, suddenly come out of her shell when she watches Bowie perform on TV. We follow her as she embarks on an exciting and adventurous relationship with Tessa, a beautiful woman she meets in a record shop.

Similarly, we see Bowie’s impact on a boy called Antony; we are told that he calls himself ‘Anton’. He doesn’t speak for the majority of the play, but simply expresses himself through his actions and appearance. The other actors narrate him, and we watch as he changes into his mother’s clothes while listening to Bowie. This story is perhaps one of the most personal and emotive because it’s a true exploration of the self; it’s a discovery Antony must make on his own. Although everyone in the cast was incredible, the actor who played Antony had this knack of grabbing the audiences’ attention with just the slightest move or expression.

Wardrobe theatre
‘Anton’ Sourced from the Wardrobe Theatre site.

Due to my genuine interest in the development of the feminist movement, Penny’s story was perhaps my favourite.  We see her fall for her sociology teacher who discusses the new feminist readings of the time, such as the iconic The Female Eunuch. Penny is impassioned by his teaching and talks wildly about strong female sexual identity in Lady Chatterley’s Lover and her future as a successful, independent woman; capable of achieving anything a man can.

Nonetheless, the end reveals how far equality still had to go in 1972, and frankly, how far we still have to go in 2016.

This production was a hilarious, touching, energetic and extremely relevant experience. The cast were very talented individuals in their own right, and you could tell how well they worked as a group. Their physicality and comic timing was spot-on; it was never too much or too little.

All tickets have sold out for the Bristol shows, but they’re on tour, so you can still catch them! Find out more about where they’re touring and when here.

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Is London Really The Theatre Capital?

I recently went to London for a few days with my better half, James.

I wouldn’t say that we’re natural London people; the hectic element of the city isn’t quite for us. However, for entertainment purposes, you can’t really fault it. Our main purpose for going was to watch the popular musical, The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, which was as hilarious and outrageous as you can expect! Then the night after, we went to Club 99 to watch some stand-up comedy. So overall, we had a really enjoyable time.

However, while we were walking amongst the main strip of theatres, it got us thinking. We could see why London has this reputation for being ‘the place’ for theatre, but were frustrated as to why other arty cities (our hometown, Bristol, being one of them) are ignored.

The reasons why London is the theatre capital is arguably clear; shows are more accessible, there are a million productions to choose from, theatre is advertised like new film releases with massive posters plastered around tube stations, and most actors study and develop their work there.

But, surely that shouldn’t detract from great theatre shown elsewhere? This brought to mind an article by Mark Shenton from The Stage I’d read a few weeks back. He explained that due to lack of theatre funding, theatre critics have been forced to down-scale, thus mainly reviewing the big shows in London. This unfortunately segments the rest of the country from the capital and gives the illusion that theatre outside London either a) Doesn’t exist, or b) Isn’t worth watching.

However, Shenton stressed that if Londoners could be bothered to make the effort and (God forbid!) explore life outside of the capital, then they would be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of talent elsewhere. He talked about his trip to the Mold’s Theatr Clwyd in North Wales and how the level of work produced there was on par with shows at the Donmar Warehouse or National.

On a personal level, my experience of theatre in Bristol has been really varied, inspiring and in my opinion, well worth exploring. The Theatre Bristol newsletter is always jam-packed with new shows to go and see; whether it be plays, musicals, dance or circus.

Circus performance has a really big presence in the city; it’s something that makes Bristol stand out from the rest. Local Circus school, Circomedia, produces amazing talent and adds a different element to the theatre we experience. I watched an outdoor circus show not too long ago, which you can read about here, and I plan to go and see a lot more.

Circomedia School. Sourced from:

Another local success is the Bristol Old Vic’s production of Jane Eyre, which eventually went on tour and was even aired live at some cinemas; it was a raging success.

Another brilliant thing about local theatre is that The Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory Brewery open up opportunities for local people to showcase their creativity through scratch nights and open space events. For example, in honour of the Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Birthday this year, some friends of mine are getting involved in an Open Space event where they get to express what Bristol means to them. I expect that this event will be completely original and independent of anything you would see in London, simply because Bristol has its own living, breathing and creative personality. You can find more about the event here.

Bristol, Clifton Suspension Bridge. Sourced from:

On another note, I’m really looking forward to seeing a local production at the Wardrobe Theatre next week called 1972: The Future of Sex. It was really well received at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where it received The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. I’m expecting outrageous behaviour, Ziggy Stardust and plenty of polyester!

So…who said London was the only place for theatre?

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