The Wardrobe Ensemble


I should be mentioning all of them individually, I know. But there are nine of them (ten, if you include their brilliant producer Hannah Smith – which, of course, you should) and, truth be told, I can’t tell them apart. I think one of them is called Jesse.

The Wardrobers grew out of Bristol Old Vic’s fabulous Made in Bristol programme. Each member applied and they were manufactured, a bit like Take That but with musical ability. Their first show – RIOT – stormed Edinburgh Fringe. It took as its inspiration the chaos that occurred at the opening of an IKEA in North London and had the fortune of being presented in 2011, as cities across England were in flames. The show came to us the following Spring, and such was the overflow of ideas, imagination and enjoyment, that I invited them to join us for our first season of residencies in the Autumn of 2012.

Whilst with us, they collaborated with Exeter’s Worklight Theatre – whose first show was How to Start a Riot, a play about how to start a riot (sort of). Together, the companies developed a version of The Steadfast Tin Solider and it was off the back of this that I invited The Wardrobe Ensemble to work with us to create our Christmas production for 2013. The result was Eliza and the Wild Swans, an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen short story, though one which started in a laundrette, involved a Russian tsar playing Nintendo and ended with Baby It’s Cold Outside.

The company returned this Christmas for Edgar and the Land of Lost, one of the few shows that I could sit through again and again. Along with the company’s trademark of boundless creativity, this show had a strong heart beating throughout. The relationship between Edgar and his niece Peewee was perfectly pitched, subtle and, ultimately, terribly moving. Last week, I asked Emily – who play Peewee – what her favourite moment to play was.

“The hug” she replied.

As I type this, a tear wells at the back of my eye as, I imagine, it will yours if you saw the show. If you didn’t, sorry. It was really good. They’re really good.

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