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.
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.
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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